Just because Herman Cain is a black Republican, Damon Young writes, it doesn’t mean we know who he is.
A revised version of this post originally appeared on Very Smart Brothas.
There are numerous things I actively do (and don’t do) to avoid potentially and unnecessarily violent confrontation. While others honk at and flip off motorists who’ve cut them off, I smirk, shake my head, and take solace in the fact that my car would probably kick their car’s ass if I wanted it to. I don’t date women with accent marks or hyphens in their names. And, if your nightclub has undergone three name changes in the past two years, you probably won’t find me there.
I go through these lengths because I desperately want to be a 60-year-old black man. And, from what I understand, it’s very difficult to be a 60-year-old black man if you get shot to death before you reach 60, so I try to live in a way that decreases the likelihood of that happening.
Now, 60 isn’t an arbitrary age. It’s critical for me to get to that point because I want to enjoy the same filter-less-ness that my dad currently does.
As anyone who has a 60+ father, uncle, or grandfather in their lives will tell you, 60 seems to be the age when men lose their filters, any sense of self-consciousness, and will say anything they want to about anybody at any time. This un-distilled dialect comes from a wry self-assuredness that only age can provide, and I literally cannot wait for the day when I’ll be able say things like, “Does your mother know that she raised an idiot?” to a city council man’s face and be able to get away with it.
Anyway, this quality makes almost certain that any conversation I have with my dad will be entertaining, so you can imagine what I was expecting to hear while at my parent’s house the other night when I asked for his opinion about Herman Cain.
His answer—“Well, I have to say that he hasn’t said or done anything really stupid yet”—stuck with me for two reasons:
A) The bar for politicians is so low that “Well, at least he’s not a complete idiot” is an endorsement. Seriously, can you imagine if other industries had the same low expectations? Would you ever go to Chick-fil-A again if “Well, at least you won’t get Salmonella“ was the best ad campaign they could come up with?
B) My dad, a revolutionary who listens to Gil Scott Heron, occasionally rocks black berets, and still says things like “solid on down,” isn’t turned completely off by Herman Cain.
My mom—a woman whose ability to detect bullshit is equally matched by the joy she exhibits in doing so—soon walked into the room. I asked for her opinion, and she basically said the same thing.
Now, I realize that this could just be some type of mandatory kinship speaking—a mandate from high (or Morgan Freeman perhaps) that when any black person 60 or over is doing anything remotely positive, every other 60+ black person must immediately give them the benefit of the doubt. But, my Black Panther-ass parents’ open-mindedness made me rethink my own thoughts about Cain and why I possess them.
I have to admit, I hadn’t even considered giving dude an honest chance. Part of it has to do with his name. (“Herman” is just a silly fucking name to me. It feels like something someone should name a dog or a sexual position.) But, the main reason why he was thrown in the ignore pile is that for the last 18 months or so, his name always seemed to pop up whenever staunch conservatives had their “I’m not racist. I have black friends, too!” conversations. This isn’t meant to suggest that staunch conservatives are inherent racists, but it’s never a good sign when you’re consistently cited as an anomaly, a (gasp!) token, and I think he’s been too quick to embrace his status as their “proof.”
Also, with the exception of Colin Powell and (maybe) Condi Rice, every prominent black Republican I can think of just seems to be engulfed in a spider web of wackness—a general lameness that has less to do with their beliefs than the sense that they’ve adopted certain stances to either downplay or apologize for their complexion. (Think “Uncle Ruckus” from The Boondocks) Their personalities, not their policies, tend to turn other blacks off, and the tired-but-telling “Well, I might not like his politics, but he’d be cool to have a beer with” cliché’ rarely applies to them.
I have no idea if any of this applies to Herman Cain. He may very well be a bad motherfucker, a complicated man that no one understands but his woman. He might also be the Antichrist. But, that’s my point—and my parent’s point as well. I don’t know, and it’s not fair to him for me to make assumptions just because he’s black and he happens to belong to the 2011 GOP, and it’s not fair to me to be so intellectually apathetic when deciding on a leader. There’s absolutely no chance I’d actually vote for him if pitted against Obama (let’s not get carried away here), but I can at least begin listen to what he has to say.
I mean, he is a 65-year-old black man. That guarantees that he’ll at least be entertaining.