History 101 For Herman Cain

Ambling along this afternoon, I heard an old woman mumbling, “The devil is a liar” and upon reaching home, the TV reported, Herman Cain, Republican presidential candidate expressed the view, Black Americans who vote Democratic are “brainwashed.”

Poor Mr. Cain, perhaps there was too much spice in his pizza or he believes winning the straw poll in Florida really makes him a winner! Unfortunately, Hermano (meaning brother) is not fully aware of the ramifications attendant in the lion’s den where he is now an active player.

Even more, Mr. Cain is perhaps in need of a good history lesson, which begs the question, “Does he write his own material?” That is, is he trying to say, particularly in today’s world, there is more opportunity for Blacks in the Republican Party as opposed to its Democratic counterpart? If so, why is it there are only two newly minted Republican members of Congress and some 42 Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus? As such, Mr. Cain got it wrong as all such “Cain” misstatements from time immemorial have been.

For example, if we begin with Biblical lore, our brother Herman should have been aware that Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy! When the Lord enquired of Abel’s, “the keeper of the sheep,” whereabouts; Cain, “the tiller of the soil,” in arrogance responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Obviously answering his own question, he meant “No! I am not my brother’s keeper!” The Lord was so annoyed with Cain; he put a mark on him before he was forced to depart from the divine presence to dwell in the Land of Nod!

Equally, the political platform from which Mr. Cain articulates, the contemporary Republican Party, has not been kind to Blacks, who for the most part, have been considered “Cannon fodder.” This is so, because in ascending their ladder of aspirations it forces Black operatives to renounce the nature of their historical experience in this country and the essentiality of their cultural and historical being. In this respect, Black Republicans are lulled into the false sense of security by being told, “You’re not like them!” Recently, a New York Tabloid described the two current Black Republicans as “attack dogs” for their party. To date, these two persons have not uttered a word in condemnation of all racial characterizations of President Obama. Is this akin to “selling one’s soul to the devil?”

For example, we know the story of President Obama’s road to the White House and the numerous assaults he suffered particularly the racist machinations directed toward his person, even toward his family. Yet he persevered, recognizing he is a Black man but not flaunting this reality nor taking advantage of his African American heritage. In his effort to downplay race and hopes of moving America forward in another direction, as Dr. Martin Luther King implored, Mr. Obama hopes his children, would not be judged by the “color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Even more important, taking the high road, Mr. Obama overlooked any and all racial slurs and disrespectful commentary directed at him. As such, people of all persuasions flocked to his banner and elected Mr. Obama, President. Venturing upon his responsibilities as the Oath of Office dictated, the world hailed Mr. Obama’s new direction for America; and even as he blunted the negative international characterization of this nation, the anti-Obamaites unfolded their new strategy contradicting the emerging and much publicized hope for a “Post-Racial America.”

The point man for the now coalesced attack on Mr. Obama has been none other than the highest Republican in the Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell. It would be foolish to believe he had not caucused with other Republicans in and out of Congress before his publicly stated policy boast, “My job is to make Barack Obama a one-term President.” In “dictatorial banana republics,” such a public statement would be considered treason and unpatriotic! This is alarming yet not really surprising since the Constitution guarantees the right of free speech; still, great Republican leaders remained silent in response to this clearly and publicly stated attack on the Presidency and President Obama himself. Some have charged this is purely racist behavior because the President is Black. More importantly, it is perhaps because as we now have a man inside we now have access to hidden-secrets of this “inner sanctum.”

So, in wake of such action, Mr. Obama has had to “fight on two fronts” having to address the problems facing his beloved nation while having to contend with single-minded opposition in and out of government, that in reality is really more unpatriotic when viewed objectively. However, despite the tremendous ad hominem attacks on the man and his policy, Mr. Obama took the high road, seeking compromise in dealing with Republicans and even “fifth wheels” in his own political party. Meanwhile, despite his avalanche of legislative action on fiscal and financial policy, dispensing stimulus dollars to rescue banks, the auto industry, aiding Wall Street and helping the retention of essential service personnel in states across the nation, the attacks continued. He has also been championing the environment through his insistence on innovative energy sources to make the nation less dependent on foreign imports because such petroleum dollars adds to the ever-increasing foreign trade debt as well as the trade imbalance; all this, even as he addresses the general foreign debt and the debt ceiling crisis.

Along the way, having gained traction and respectability, as an adjunct to the “McConnell Mandate,” the “Tea Party” advocates changed from dungarees to business suits and hoodwinked American voters. Voila, the results of the 2010 election! Perhaps “Occupy Wall Street” is the grassroots reaction to “Tea Party” and Republican protection of the “One percent.” When the issue of “renewal of the Bush Tax Cuts” and later the “Debt Ceiling” debacle emerged, this caused the world to take notice because American economics affects the global financial markets. Through all of these challenges, Mr. Obama relied on that profound American tradition, the art of compromise, to avoid gridlock in government. Let us not forget, as an example, Mr. Obama’s most far-reaching achievement in the legislative process was passage of the Health Care Reform Act and this forward looking and comprehensive economic move was designed to provide medical treatment for particularly an ever-widening population of Americans who had/have no health insurance. We saw the reaction as this riled Republicans and especially that emerging “Tea Party” movement that skillfully used the Debt Ceiling issue as a weapon in the arsenal of their “Stop Obama” strategy while protecting the wealthy who had already gotten a large slice of the pie in December’s “Bush Tax Cuts” renewal. Trapped in a pact, the Tea Party” did not seem to care they were in fact holding America not President Obama hostage.

Notwithstanding, perhaps Mr. Herman Cain was too busy becoming successful as the Godfather of Pizza to have missed former President Bush’s statement at one of the Al Jolson dinners where he remarked to wealthy donor in attendance, “They call you wealthy, but I call you my base.” In this statement, the foremost Republican of his time reiterated the party’s relationship with the wealthy and so, while today’s Republicans and especially the “Tea Party” may trumpet the rising debt level, they were not opposed to getting even more tax cuts despite this development adds to the deficit they were insisting needed to be cut. Even more important, Speaker Boehner, having disrespected President Obama by not returning his repeated phone calls during the “Debt Ceiling” standoff, could still boat my people “Got 98 percent of what we wanted;” and after negotiations, the smiling Mr. McConnell gave his now famous, “I got that ni**er” thumbs up!

Another troubling revelation President Bush made in his Second Inaugural Address, January 2005, is that “We must work to end racism that is still alive and well in America,” but that reality has not changed. The next election of 2008 showed the remarkable young Senator Barack Obama proved not only an interestingly remarkable character but one who wanted to bring profound changes to the American social and political landscape to save America from its seemingly impending failed state status because of unjust economic policies, racial polarization of the nation and the great disparity between rich and poor. In response to the visionless Republicans, young and old, black and white, voted in overwhelming numbers to be part of the new historic movement in electing Mr. Obama for the change that is sorely needed. The problem with such a view, adherents of the ancient regime and mentality, particularly in having signed on to the “McConnell Mandate” boldly mined the pathway Mr. Obama has had to tread as he endeavored to fulfill his obligations expressed in the “Oath of Office.” As such, the “Party of No,” in “group think” did everything in their power to derail the Obama express.

We must remain mindful of Edmund Burke’s line from his work, “Reflections on the Revolution in France” in which he stated, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men say nothing.” Now, if we accept the legitimacy of such as profound wisdom, the personal and professional attacks on Mr. Obama that generated no condemnation from Republican “men of stature,” therefore Mr. Burke would have argued, “There are no good men in America!” Importantly, we must never forget, such attacks were primarily orchestrated by Republicans such as De Mint, Joe Wilson, even Billy Crystal, etc., nor did we hear any condemnation from good ole Herman Cain! Does this mean he is not good? Well, that is for voters to determine.

However, Mr. Cain’s statement about Black Americans, as the CNN Commentator Roland Martin has pointed out, is “Stupid.” Perhaps “ole Hermano” needs to know, that the eloquent and brilliant activist Malcolm X pointed out, the American electorate is so evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans; Black Americans; and if you would add an alliance with “other minorities;” can influence the balance and determine “who goes to the White House and who goes to the dog house!” Now, having “dissed” Blacks, Mr. Cain has probably kissed off their vote, period! Reiterating, Mr. Cain still needs to be informed why his statement is “stupid” and counter-productive because as indicated no one can get to the White House without the Black Vote! And even Blacks need to fully realize the power of their vote!

So, Mr. Cain, “Welcome to the Big Leagues!” While you certainly need a history lesson regarding your understanding of the history of African Americans in this country and the plight of their voting history, you yourself, if you’re lucky, will ultimately come to grips with some of the same problems other Blacks as President Obama have encountered. Please pay attention, the tiger you’re riding has teeth and a tail. So, be careful. Nonetheless, you do need to know why Blacks have begun voting Republican and why they left that party for the Democratic Party.

Despite Crispus Attucks’ role in sparking the American Revolution, the prevailing ruling mindset prohibited Blacks from serving in the military because of the notion “black men would be killing white men” in a slave society where Blacks were deemed inferior to whites. Nevertheless, while at first he objected, George Washington relented allowing Black service. Then the British countered by offering freedom to any Black who served with their forces. These recruits were later taken to Nova Scotia in Canada before finally being repatriated to the British colony Sierra Leone in West Africa. Amidst this conundrum, many American slave masters sent their slaves to serve on their behalf in the war of liberation, only to have them return to their slave status upon cessation of hostilities. This was a time when the founding fathers were proudly proclaiming “All men are created equal and endowed by their creator with inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In this reality, nevertheless, millions of Africans in bondage on these shores and elsewhere were not only enslaved but enjoyed none of those basic rights a just god would grant! For these hapless souls, de facto and de jure African family life was hardly recognized, liberty was denied, and the pursuit of happiness was deemed unattainable. Notwithstanding, having an unconquerable spirit, profound religiosity and a humanity strengthened by family values the slave system decried, Blacks persevered though held captive in a brutish “state of nature” functioning through legal and religious justification.

At the end of the War of 1812, the “Second War for Independence” in which Blacks served in the military, many who lost their lives were buried in a segregated Brooklyn Navy Yard cemetery. In that conflict, this nation fought the British (our great ally today) to maintain the hard won liberty of their Independence as the industrial revolution and internal improvements got underway. However, after 1793, the “cotton gin” helped elevate the institution of slavery, intensifying its labor demands, and after the 1808 outlawing of the Slave Trade and development of the Internal Slave Trade with the attendant barbarity of an inhuman way of life, “Cotton became King” on the backs of Blacks! As these issues unfolded, by1818, General Andrew Jackson, the hero of the “Battle of New Orleans” in 1815, crossed into Florida to punish Native American Seminoles who offered refuge to African Americans who had escaped slavery and made it to their lands. Eight years later General Jackson became President Jackson, all the while our ancestors toiled unpaid in a brutal system that denied their very humanity, much less basic social amenities guaranteed by the Constitution.

We know the Runaway Slave Samuel Carson served in the US Navy during the War with Mexico in 1845-46. While “Cotton was King” up to the Civil War years; the Internal Slave Trade enabled the transport of manufactured humans created in unspeakable and debasing horrors on “southern slave farms” as the nation moved forward as a “House Divided.” That callous state of affairs brought on the clash of cultures in Civil War. The record clearly shows the heritage of First Lady Michelle (Robinson) Obama began at this time, but having arrived today, this makes her that great historical figure around whom so many will rally as Blacks galvanize their heroes and heroines in defiance of oppression and injustice.

Blacks called to serve in the Union Army, during the Civil War, though initially denied, were exemplary in their service. In the unfolding dynamics, President Lincoln hit the “Rebels” in their pocketbooks by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation and paid for this with his life. That significant Executive Decision became enshrined in the 13th Amendment at the end of the conflict.

In seeking legislative advantage, Mr. Lincoln’s party members, Radical Republicans, enacted far reaching legislation to “Punish the South” in an age of great recrimination. As the Civil War victors sought to reconstruct the nation, they strengthened the 13th Amendment by providing guarantees for the Freedman in creating the 14th and 15th Amendments. With these actions came the Freedman’s Bureau, founding of Historic Black Colleges, and the now earned right of enfranchisement. However, the honeymoon of Reconstruction was ended in the 1876 election compromise resulting in southern reaction. Yet, Blacks honored Mr. Lincoln, the “liberator,” by voting Republican because this was the party that not only guaranteed civil and political rights but enabled the election of a few legislative representatives whose lives and abilities were still questioned and threatened on the way to and even in Congress.

In that classical age of American terrorism we see the formation of the Ku Klux Klan, Knights of the White Camelia, White Citizen’s Council, etc. wherein Blacks became victims of unspeakable horrors perpetrated by “lynching bees,” subjected to tar-and-feather, intimidated, robbed in the sharecropper rip-off and in their attempt to exercise the franchise, Blacks were subject to literacy tests, poll taxes, property taxes, the grandfather clause, and been victims of all manner of political subterfuges to prevent their exercising the franchise. Yet still, Blacks remained loyal Republicans despite the “Nadir” experience even as the Democrats regained power in the south. As America returned to normal and advancing the industrial and economic capabilities of the nation, little attention was paid to economic, civil and human rights conditions of the Black man. In that age of despair, amidst “Jim Crow” and ultimately Plessey V. Ferguson’s “Separate but Equal” ruling of 1896, Booker T. Washington, a product of a historic Black College, founded Tuskegee Institute to train blacks in the industrial arts to be able to get whatever jobs were available. Mr. Washington had quickly recognized limitations placed on Blacks in that age and felt technical skill was more important than intellectual pursuits. Challenging this view, W.E.B. DuBois became Harvard University’s first African American PhD; producing his memorable work entitled Reconstruction and correctly predicted the main item of the 20th Century would be the question of the “color line.”

While Blacks still remained loyal to the Republican Party, electing white men as their national and local representatives, World War I broke out following 19th Century American terrorist activities of lynchings that saw more than 100 blacks murdered in 1901 alone. There was no end to this barbarity. This was a failure of law and order under the Republican President William McKinley (1897-1901). Next, Theodore Roosevelt (R) (1901-1909) executed his “Southern strategy” and “executive lynching;” Then, William Howard Taft (R) (1909-1913) insisted in a speech to Black students, “Your race is adapted to be a race of farmers, first, last and for all times.” Here we see evidence of Republican arrogance. Even the Democrat Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921), who, in a classic double cross made “Jim Crow” official policy in Federal Departments of government while some 54 lynchings were reported in 1916 alone, during his tenure.

In all this mayhem, that same year, Marcus Garvey and the UNIA preached “Black is Beautiful;” held conventions; he established the Red, Black and Green flag; seeing none, he created “men of big affairs” as “Count of the Congo” and “Duke of the Nile;” to pursue Black economic enterprise, he launched the Black Star Line and even more important, he established the “Black Cross Nurses” to administer to Black men on the battlefield seeking respect and human decency.

Notwithstanding, returning home from World War I, Black despair continued well past the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919, as the decade of the 1920s brought unprecedented prosperity to the nation while Republicans virtually ignored Black aspirations. As all know, at the decade’s end, the Great Depression dealt America a deadly blow, devastating Wall Street, crippling Main Street and obscuring Back Street. From these ashes, FDR emerged with a promise of the “New Deal” and promising as it was, Blacks flocked to the Democratic Party banner, giving Roosevelt a resounding victory in the 1932 presidential election and since remaining the party’s most loyal supporters. Still, things were slow to move, though the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, perhaps the fount of wisdom in the White House, prevailed upon her husband to create a “Black kitchen cabinet” that was advisory; yet, concerns of Blacks began to be heard. Still our people, leaders and all were still marginalized in the general society but stalwarts as A. Philip Randolph advocated unceasingly until President Roosevelt invited him and others to the White House for a presentation and dinner. Here Mr. Randolph made a passionate plea to the President regarding the plight of Blacks and offered some corrective suggestions particularly for hiring in the industrial arts. The president listened attentively, circled the room handing out cigars and finally admonished, “That was a good presentation, now go and make me do it.” Well, from the 1941 threat to “March on Washington” activists kept up the pressure to change America that saw: first, desegregation of the armed forces in 1947; the historic Brown B. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision; and finally Mr. Randolph handing over civil rights leadership to Martin Luther King to lead the 1963 “March on Washington.”

Let us also not forget the roles of such great Americans as Rev. Fred Shutllesworth, now an ancestor, as his generation paved the way in these challenging and perilous times. Right after, President Kennedy was killed and Lyndon Baines Johnson became the new President; and as a sign of “continuity” effectively implemented Kennedy’s agenda for the “Great Society.” In an age of civil rights turmoil, LBJ signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protected black voting privileges and began a process of political empowerment aided for decades by unrelenting support of the “Lion of the Senate, Edward Kennedy, that enabled the Congressional Black Caucus to emerge and today boast some 42 members achieved through the Democratic Party compared to two newly minted Republican members of Congress.

Now, the arrogance of Mr. Cain is an insult to any party that promotes the interests of its members in similar fashion. However, while these numbers outdistance Black representation in the Republican Party, former Congressman Major Owens commented on the size of the CBC in the statement: “It is not so much the legislation that we are able to author but the fact that we are there and could collate with others of like mind to stop some of the frivolous legislation that is brought to the Congress to punish Blacks and other minorities is what makes it meaningful in what we do.”

What is disturbing, Mr. Cain has begun to believe his own hype. Nevertheless, two things should be considered. First, in the movie “In the Heat of the Night” when Sheriff Gillespie accompanied officer Tibbs to speak with Mr. Endicott and Endicott slapped Virgil and was slapped back in return, despite the sheriff’s comments, Virgil responded passionately, “I just need 48-hours and I will bring that fat cat down from his high horse.” The sheriff looked at him disdainfully and said, “My god man, you’re just like us.”

This is probably what some Republicans probably uttered about Cain as he still continued to believe Blacks will vote for him in unprecedented numbers in his attempt to unseat Barack Obama. Second, we must remember, Malcolm X also said, “No matter what the man says, you had better look into it!” This time, the man is Herman Cain and he is not his brothers’ keeper!