Raising Cain in Post Racial America

Raising Cain in Post Racial America

Story tools

A A AResize



SAN FRANCISCO -- Herman Cain's ability to remain a viable candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in the face of sexual misconduct accusations by at least two white women is the clearest sign ever that -- at the level of power politics -- America may indeed be a post-racial society. That -- to his Tea Party and conservative supporters -- gender/politics trumps race.

When Cain was asked a question about the allegations at the most recent Republican debate, the conservative audience booed -- as if it was an illegitimate question for a presidential candidate. More boos filled the hall when Mitt Romney -- Cain's closest rival in the 2012 race -- was asked a question referring to the scandal.

America, I thought, wasn't necessarily post-racial because it had elected the biracial Obama in 2008. But for Cain's Tea Party supporters to dismiss these women goes against 400 years of racial and gender politics in these United States. And it is more of a post-racial phenomenon than a bunch of college students voting for the son of a white woman and African immigrant almost four years ago.

Cain supporters are folks who only a few decades ago might have attended a picnic and watched a Cain look-alike get lynched for the mere allegation of disrespect towards a white woman, let alone grabbing the back of her head and pulling it to his crotch.

This son of the segregated South likely grew up getting instructed by his elders on how to deal with white woman in public. Even in Atlanta Ga. -- where Cain was raised in the 40s and 50s -- the mere allegation of reckless eyeballing, staring at a white woman too long, could earn you visit from avenging night riders in white sheets, ready and eager to defend their women's unquestioned honor with rope and steel. Whole towns of black people were razzed and demolished on the word of a white women against a black man.

Where are these white people now? Those old school knights of white supremacy who would not have stood pat while this negro was accused of fondling, talking dirty to, or disrespecting a blond in anyway. Cain's defense is: Sharon Bialek and the other women hollering harassment are lying.

At least at this point in the scandal, Cain has been able to raise more money, is being defended by conservative radio and is still breathing, literally and politically. He is still in the lead. 

Meanwhile Anita Hill -- the African American woman who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 1990 -- has released a new book, retelling some of the stories hundreds of women relayed to her in the aftermath of the hearings and Thomas's subsequent confirmation and installment on the nations highest court.

Immediately after the allegations surfaced about Cain, the comparisons to Hill and her battle were offered by columnists and pundits. The real difference between the cases is that Hill is black. The old assumption, even back then, was that Thomas would have never been confirmed had Hill been white. In 2011, Hill might not even make it to the confirmation hearings to testify. 

What the Hill case did was solidify the idea that liberals will use sexual misconduct/harassment to derail conservatives, a sentiment that Cain followers seem to be buying into, again. That they can look past Bialek's race to come to this conclusion is stunning for those that believe America is still -- in it's soul -- a country governed by white supremacy and inhabited by bigots, who would do anything to uphold that race-based power dynamic, 146 years after the end of the Civil War.

In 1994 O.J. Simpson miraculously walked out of a Los Angeles court room a free man after -- many believe -- slicing his blond wife and a male friend to death. Something changed in America when O.J. beat the rap. The new reality became that rich -- O.J. was able to buy some of the best lawyers walking around, including the incomparable trial lawyer Johnnie Cochran -- trumps race when it comes to the justice system. And that was progress in the context of America's awful racial history.

Anita Hill was another time and I tend to agree that had she been white it would have been a wrap for Thomas in 1990 -- he wouldn't have been confirmed. In 2011, this black man Cain, this grandson of slaves and son of Jim Crow, is getting the same sexist benefit of the doubt (despite his accusers' white skin) that any white man would from his mostly white and conservative supporters. That's progress. That is post-racial.

Kevin Weston is a writer at New America Media. Find him on Facebook or Twitter. Email kweston@newamericamedia.org