On CNN’s State of the Union this morning, host Candy Crowley joined the ranks of white journalists who presume to speak on behalf of black Americans in expressing their alleged skepticism about Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.
Blaming racism for the economic gap between blacks and whites, Crowley asked Cain whether his success was due to “luck,” or a “loving family,” rather than skill and hard work, which apparently are never enough in our racist society. (Should the government redistribute luck and love?)
Cain took it in stride, pointing out that economic policy is at the root of unemployment for all Americans. While acknowledging that some racism exists, Cain highlighted more important causes of the racial economic gap, such as differences in education and the geographic concentration of blacks in failing cities. He also used Crowley’s questions as an opportunity to discuss his own 9-9-9 plan for tax reform and economic growth.
CROWLEY: We are back with Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. I want to play for our audience something that you said Friday. You were addressing the Values Voter Summit, and the subject was racism.
CAIN [clip]: I have achieved all of my American dreams, and then some, because of the great nation, the United States of America! What’s there to be angry about?
CROWLEY: And I would say to you an unemployment rate for blacks that is far higher–almost six percent higher, seven percent higher than for whites; a percentage of black incarceration in the nation’s prison systems that is far greater; a lack of–and for all of your skills, is there not some luck in that, I want to ask you that–but, you know, there–I would tell you that minorities, especially African-Americans, can name a lot of things that speak to a certain amount of racism that they can still complain about. And so I wonder if you are taking your good fortune and superimposing it over everyone else, when it doesn’t really apply?
CAIN: Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. That’s what I’ve done all my career. Secondly, I don’t believe racism, in this country today, holds anybody back in a big way. Is there some, are there some elements of racism? Yes. It gets back to if we don’t grow this economy, that is a ripple effect for every economic level. And because blacks are more disproportionately unemployed, they get hit the worst when economic policies don’t work. That’s where it starts. Grow this economy and it’s going to help everybody to get jobs and get back in the workforce.
CROWLEY: But at this very moment, the black jobless rate is sixteen percent–
CROWLEY: –for everyone it’s 9.1 percent. The black teen unemployment [rate] is 44.2 percent. That can’t just be random luck, can it?
CAIN: It’s not random luck!
CROWLEY: Or bad luck.
CAIN: Or bad luck. It’s failed economic policy!
CROWLEY: But what accounts for the gap?
CAIN: The gap is due to a number of factors. One is a differential in education. Two is a concentration of a lot of blacks in certain areas, like the city of Detroit, where the unemployment rate there is fourteen percent versus the 9.1 percent we have nationally. So if you have a city like Detroit, where they have lost twenty five percent of their population, economically they’ve done nothing but go down, down, down–if we do not boost this national economy, you’re never going to be able to close that gap. So there are a number of factors that cause that differential. But we must start with feeding this economic engine, which is why I have proposed the bold “9-9-9″ plan. And, in addition to that, we are developing an empowerment zone feature off of the 9-9-9 platform that I will be announcing shortly.
CROWLEY: But can you be surprised if African-Americans look at you saying, I am, you know, became the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, you know, I, the–you know didn’t have any advantage, you grew up poor but you had a loving family, it sounds like to me–
CROWLEY: –others are not so lucky, and they need help. You’ve been critical of the entitlement society, Who–what do you think Americans–black Americans, white Americans, Latino Americans–what are we entitled to, as a society?
CAIN: We are all entitled to an opportunity to be able to go after our definition of the American dream. Everybody’s definition of the American dream is different. You’re owed the opportunity for a level playing field.
CROWLEY: And do blacks have a level playing field right now with whites?
CAIN: Many of them do! Many of them do have a level playing field. I absolutely believe that. Because–not only because of the businesses that I have run, which has had a combination of whites, blacks, Hispanics–you know, we had a total diversity!–but also because of the corporations whose board I’ve served on for the last twenty years. I have seen blacks in middle management move up to top management of some of the biggest corporations in America. They–they were’t held back because of racism. No. People sometimes hold themselves back, because they want to use racism as an excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve.
Crowley later asked Cain about a positive reaction to his debate performance that had been tweeted by white rapper Vanilla Ice, who is sometimes mocked as a racial poseur. If there was a similar subtext in Crowley’s question, Cain did not take note or offense.
It is clear that the mainstream media will work as hard to prevent an accomplished black Republican from becoming president as it did to help an inexperienced black Democrat win the White House.
If he continues to perform this well, Cain will succeed in spite of their political bigotry.