The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Kind Words for Herman Cain, From an Unlikely Source


Kind words for Herman Cain at The Nation? Why, yes, from Melissa Harris-Perry, an associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University:

I suggest that we do away with all blacker-than-thou arguments about who does and does not get to be “really black” or “black enough.” Engaging in these life-experience-authenticity-litmus tests allows us to imagine that biography determines political solidarity. Herman Cain is a reminder that it does not.

Further, we need to bury, once and for all, the idea that racism is primarily about saying mean or unflattering things about black people, and specifically saying mean or unflattering things about President Obama. We need to insist that discussions of American racism rest firmly in revealing and addressing the disparate impact of policies and practices that create or deepen racially unequal outcomes. Racial animus might have prompted the nasty signage about the President at anti-health care rallies, but who cares? The issues of racism in health care are the continuing racial health disparities that impact black Americans from infancy to old-age. When some whites refuse to vote for Barack Obama it might be caused by racism, but the voting racism I am much more interested in are the voting and registration regulations that state governments are imposing right now in ways that will likely disenfranchise millions of black voters.

If we allow white Democrats to believe that support for Barack Obama is sufficient to protect them from any racialized criticism then we will have to extend that same logic to Republican supporters of Cain. Both are ridiculous. The politically relevant question on race is not the willingness to support a candidate who shows up in a black body. Anti-racism is not about hugging the black guy running for President, it’s about embracing policies that reduce structural unfairness and eliminate continuing racial inequality.

Obviously, NRO readers will find a lot to disagree with in Prof. Harris-Perry’s analysis, but I think they’ll also cheer the sight of somebody on the other side of the aisle actually taking Herman Cain seriously . . . more seriously than some folks on the right.

Tags: Herman Cain


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