Apparently Herman Cain can’t stop talking about race in his supposedly post-racial presidential campaign, whether because journalists are obsessed or because his answers are so, well, colorful:
Andrew Goldman, The New York Times Magazine: Before you announced your campaign, you said that the liberal establishment is scared that “a real black man might run against Barack Obama.” Are you suggesting Obama isn’t really black?
Herman Cain: A real black man is not timid about making the right decisions, that’s what I meant. Look, I’m not getting into this whole thing about President Obama. It is documented that his mother was white and his father was from Africa. If he wants to call himself black, fine. If he wants to call himself African-American, fine. I’m not going down this color road.
But you’re saying he’s not really a black man.
Not in terms of a strong black man that I’m identifying with. I identify with a strong black man like Martin Luther King Jr., or my dad, Luther Cain Jr., who didn’t have a lot of formal education, but he had a Ph.D. in common sense.
It has been said that the Tea Party has embraced you partly to provide cover for some racism in its ranks – like, How could racists support a black guy?
There’s no validity to that whatsoever. People who are still making those accusations have no other way to intimidate the growing force of the Tea Party citizens’ movement.
At Tea Party rallies, you see signs referring to Obama as Kenyan. Are those racist?
Not if you’re from Kenya.
Outraged at the fact that most black Americans vote Democratic–which as any serious observer of politics knows is not because they are coerced into doing so by some mythical, all-powerful black establishment but rather because Democrats have led the fight for civil rights and economic justice since the 1960s–Cain seems to be another in a long line of African American conservatives who buttress the white, reactionary establishment by providing cover for its racism and inaction on social justice issues.
He’s also mining the black authenticity front–insisting Obama isn’t African American, but African–and at the same time feeding into doubts among his white Tea Party base about the president’s cultural authenticity. The messaging is genius, if insanely cynical.