Goodbye Herman Cain, I Shall Miss You!

Your 15 minutes of political fame as the black guy who almost became the anything-but-Romney-choice for the Tea Party are just about up.  It has been a bizarre horse race up until now — but I’m pretty sure Herman Cain, while still in the race for the Tea Party-backed nomination (hereafter referred to as TeaPublican), is not going to remain a top contender.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Cain.  I will surely miss the gaffes — oops! I meant laughs. Alas, what I will miss most (even more than your starring role as the live action ‘Uncle Ruckus’) is the substantive proof you provide that the TeaPublicans (still) have a lot of racists in their ranks. Now, Mr. Cain and his supporters will surely ask just how did he provide proof of their racist underpinnings when he is obviously black? I know they have contempt for black women. The many blatantly racist stereotypical comments, such as calling a well educated, professional black woman who is married and bore her children in wedlock, Barak’s “Baby Mama”. These kinds of personal attacks on First Lady Michelle Obama would convince any honest and self-aware person (who is not in deep denial about the underlying problems with race and racism that still exist in this country) that people who makes such disparaging comments have a problem with a black woman who defies their myopic racist views of black women.  The attacks on her have been the “in your face” type of racism. I admire the first lady very much; while these attacks on her  are hateful and hurtful, I can deal with these sentiments because they are spouted by open, honest, old fashioned racists (side-eye to you Rush Limbaugh!).  I expect this type of talk and behavior from the likes of him/them.

It’s the people who say equally racist things, both verbally and in writing  (if you can call some of the signs at many of the Tea Party rallieswriting’) then deny the feelings of deep seated hatred behind them, who bother me.  Thanks to you, Herman Cain, their support for you provides proof that racism is still a high motivating factor for this group.

Proof?!  That’s right, you read it correctly…PROOF!  You see there is a little discussed but very relevant psychological phenomenon known as Implicit Bias. I strongly believe this is what is at play in their seemingly inexplicable support for Herman Cain as a viable candidate for President of these United States. I actually prefer to refer to it as what I believe it really is: Unconscious Racism.  What exactly is this phenomenon?

Implicit social cognition:  Also known as Hidden Bias or Unconscious Bias, Implicit Bias arose as a way to explain why discrimination persists, even though polling and other research clearly shows that people oppose it. Initially, some researchers conjectured that people sought to hide their bias from pollsters – and simply lied about their views for fear of appearing prejudiced.

However, in 1995, Doctors Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin R. Banaji theorized that it was possible that our social behavior was not completely under our conscious control. In Implicit Social Cognition: Attitudes, Self-Esteem and Stereotypes, Greenwald and Banaji argued that much of our social behavior is driven by learned stereotypes that operate automatically – and therefore unconsciously — when we interact with other people.* 

I believe that when Herman Cain’s poll numbers were at their highest, this is what was behind it.  It wasn’t so much that he was the ‘anyone but Romney’ choice of the moment; it is more likely that Cain is, to many TeaPublicans, the antithesis of what they believe President Obama to be. The rabid opposition to President Obama by many TeaPublicans has to be fueled by something other than his policies. Despite claims to the contrary, many of the President’s policies have proven to be highly beneficial to the middle class, many of whom are counted among the (pla)card carrying members of the Tea Party. So why are so many middle class, TeaPublican sympathizers, so hateful towards President Obama?  I posit that it is because he dispels the myth of intellectual and social inferiority of black men that they are most comfortable with. By contrast, what they do find appealing is the perceived “Mavericky” style of Herman Cain. His “I play by my own rules” attitude, which easily translates to ‘I don’t necessarily need adequate knowledge of anything outside the imaginary kingdom of Tea-baggistan that I and my supporters think we live in‘ is comforting to them. After all, we are most often comfortable with that which we perceive as familiar.

Herman Cain can be described as disingenuous at best but, in my opinion, he’s more adequately labeled dishonest. He lacks any real political experience, not to mention substantive knowledge of not only the names of many foreign countries, but a clear understanding of policies regarding them. The recent allegations of sexual harassment didn’t appear to dim his spotlight.  Which is not surprising –after all, TeaPublicans use women only as token mouth/show pieces. Their real objective is maintaining a (mostly white) male power structure. With the support for Cain, it appears they don’t mind adding one more ‘boy’ to the ‘Good ol’ boys’ club…as long as he plays by their rules. Cain seems not to mind that they found his lack of awareness of certain key foreign policy issues to be acceptable. It isn’t just lack of foreign policy knowledge; he appears to be ill-informed about many things a candidate should know. That is just fine with the TeaPublicans! For them it’s a relief to see a black man speaking and acting the way (they believe) a black man should. Including his denial of alleged sexual harassment of white women.  Herman Cain is/was their way of saying ‘Take that President Obama, you uppity, uber-intellectual, professorial excuse for a real black man’!

During the last presidential campaign, the complaints of what has since coalesced into what is now called The Tea Party that then candidate Obama was “too intellectual” were insulting and ridiculous to me.  It always made me think, “Are you kidding me?! This man is like a breath of much needed fresh air, after eight years of (barely) curious George!”  Before anyone cries foul: That is NOT a veiled reference to Bush bearing any physical resemblance to the cute little chimp from children’s books, unless you unconsciously see it as such. It is a reference to his lack of intellectual curiosity—so there!

After the intellectual drought of the Bush years, one would think people would welcome a candidate with a keen intellect.  Obviously many did, or President Obama would not have been elected. Still, some vehemently rejected him (then and now) so much so as to shun intellectualism itself.  I guess for them it is acceptable and desirable only when it doesn’t come packaged in a polished, well-spoken black man.  When I would read or hear people say stupid things about Barak Obama such as “He’s too intellectual!” I SO wanted them to complete the unspoken part of those protestations:  ”He is too intellectual…for a black man”.  Now flash forward nearly 4 years, enter Herman Cain.  I can hear their collective sighs of “Ahhh, now that’s more LIKE it!  He’s all we expect and want to see in ‘our’ black men, and more!”  Herman Cain is the epitome of “less is more” to them.

What does it say about a political group that feels that Herman Cain is a viable candidate on a par with President Obama when the only thing the two of them have in common is that they both have black ancestry?  Herman Cain is a man who has little to no experience in politics, has never held public office, doesn’t speak all that intelligently or act as if he is well informed in the ways of the world, or even believes that he should be.  He is a black man who speaks contemptuously of other black people when their point of view differs from his own.  One who is a dishonest skirt chaser, with no respect for women — yet for a hot second there he was polling as the top contender for the Republican party nomination.  That says to me the TeaPublicans look at him and think — either consciously or otherwise –  “Now THAT’S the kind of black man we can get behind”!

I don’t have to search my psyche to know that I find that sort of thinking consciously revolting.

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*Source:  Americans for American Values:  What is Unconscious Bias http://writers.unconsciousbias.org/unconsciousbias/

Greenwald et al developed the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which has become the standard bearer for measuring implicit bias.

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