Although they may have accepted the invitation, ideological allies Cornel West & Tavis Smiley were none too pleased to reply to GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain’s recent commentary on modern racism in the US.

While speaking with CNN’s Candy Crowley on Sunday, Cain uttered, “I don’t believe racism in this country today, holds anybody back in a major way.” Cain went on to blame a weak economy for most of the troubles plaguing the Black community. He continued,

“I have seen blacks in middle management move up to top management in some of the biggest corporations in America,” the candidate explained. “They weren’t held back because of racism. No, people sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve.”

First up for response was Cornel West who pretty much referred to the GOP hopeful as an ill-advised basehead:

“Well, black people have been working hard for decades… I think he needs to get off the symbolic crack pipe and acknowledge that the evidence is overwhelming. And I think he also knows that if brother Anthony Davis — a brother who was just put to death — were a white Wall Street banker brother, that the response in the nation would have been very different as opposed to a poor black brother.”

CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux drew some ire when eliciting a response from Tavis Smiley. The advocate for African American affairs said Cain is simply speaking directly to his right wing base, and accused cable networks, including CNN, for falling for old “the banana in the tailpipe” trick.

“It just troubles me, respectfully Suzanne, that CNN and MSNBC and Fox News and all these cable channels go for this nonsense. They fall for — if I can quote Eddie Murphy — you fall for the banana in the tailpipe, and every time that Herman Cain says something ridiculous or crazy, blaming poor people for being poor, calling protesters anti-capitalist or suggesting that racism doesn’t hold people back… There is racial disparity based upon race, in every aspect of human our human endeavors in this country there is a racial disparity element that is a part of it – it’s almost silly to respond to it because the evidence is so overwhelming.”

On the defense Malveaux countered, “Well, Tavis, I certainly don’t think that CNN is falling for anything by simply bringing up this discussion… That’s his point of view and he certainly is rising in the polls among the Republican candidates there.”

Obviously heated, Smiley interrupted the CNN host to explain, “My point, respectfully, anyone who listens to what Herman Cain says and asks a question, ‘Does he have a point?’ A point about what?” Smiley asked. “The numbers — it’s so evident. It’s so abundantly clear. There’s such great clarity here that race is still a factor. You covered the president in the White House. Why does President Obama have a Secret Service detail that there’s no comparison in history for any president… and we’re talking about whether he has a point about racism in America, Suzanne?”


Peep the entire clip of the CNN Newsroom discussion:

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  • LKJ


    Honestly you just don’t get it at all. For you to toss aside one study that disproves your point in favor of numbers that you pulled from no cited source is just not acceptaable. I put no merit in your numbers cause you have nothing to back them up.

    That you would in one paragraph claim that racism still exists and then go on to imply that it does not negatively affect the socioeconomic status of those being discriminated against is either naivete or stupidity. Either way I am not impressed.

    Affirmative action exists because there are people who would NEVER hire a minority regardless of their talent. So don’t tell me that it stigmatizes the African American community.

  • Jeremy

    Hey LKJ-
    I’m certainly not trying to impress you. And if ‘not getting it’ means I don’t blindly accept your way of thinking, then I guess I don’t. My earliest point was simply that people gravitate towards people like them. Case in point, Obama gets over 90% of the black vote. Was it purely his policies? Now, if this is racism, then I guess it will never go away. My point was that gravitation towards people you are familiar with will never go away.
    Some employers may not hire blacks. Some may not hire whites, or reds, or greens. Some may not hire the obese, the handicapped, smokers. But would you really want to work for that employer? Do you want to work thinking that you were only hired because of your skin pigment and not your ability?

    If you want to discuss statistics, here you go:
    http://www.census.gov/apsd/www/statbrief/sb95_22.pdf Not the most recent, but it shows 1.9 million out of 5.3 million. So 37%, I was a little off. But this is the total population, not just a selective sample on a couple of days. Stats 101.

    I think that people can write their own destiny, to some degree. Don’t put words in my mouth. I didn’t say it stigmatizes the african american community. I just believe that the AA community is better than that and needs to look within itself, not from the government. Plus, assuming we can move forward, it would be counter productive and would halt progress to place blame on something that happened in the past, wouldn’t it? Unless it is injustice from hundreds of years ago. Then it makes great ammunition, doesn’t it. Did america benefit from slavery? yes. it happened.

    i guess we agree to disagree. I appreciate the dialogue. Lets at least agree that we are trying to make this world, this country a better place. We just disagree on how to get there.

  • LKJ

    “Some employers may not hire blacks. Some may not hire whites, or reds, or greens. Some may not hire the obese, the handicapped, smokers. But would you really want to work for that employer? Do you want to work thinking that you were only hired because of your skin pigment and not your ability?”

    A job is a job period. This vicious cycle of poverty will not be won by someone refusing a job because they don’t believe in affirmative action. My point is that people are being discriminated against regardless of ability.

    And finally your argument assumes that people of public assistance are lazy. That is just not the case. There may be a few people who don’t want to work and just want to rely on government aid, but that is not the majority of people. People want jobs, they want to be able to provide for their family.

    Your data from 1993 is not current but to the extent that your data shows that African Americans (and they don’t qualify how they counted people of mixed race and how immigrants and people of other ethnicities are counted) receive more public aid. It reflects my larger point that unemployment disproportionately affects blacks. It is not just a matter of unmotivated people refusing to look for a job this is bigger than that especially in this economy.

    That is why it is ridiculous for Herman Cain to pretend that people are where they are in life solely based on merit. Hard work and ability certainly matter but those are not the only decisive factors. There are plenty of black people of all educational levels with different skill sets searching for work. Black unemployment is not twice that of whites because African Americans are unmotivated.

    Finally, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Our goals may be similar but our points of view and paths to those goals are different.


  • Jeremy

    Thanks for the reply. I don’t assume anyone is necessarily lazy, but I do think that people tend to take the path of least resistance, and if there is such thing as free money, people will take it. I just hope that ultimately pride trumps that. I don’t want people to starve or struggle, and believe me I hope that all people are taken care of. I don’t have faith in our government, and I don’t want AA’s to put blind faith in them either. I think we, the people, can do a much better job of it. But I think that we need some work. And that we don’t need to keep pointing out and focusing on our differences, but instead work together.
    It is ignorant for me to think I truly know your experience, and I don’t want to come off like I do. That would be smug. Perhaps I’m just overly hopeful that, as the Jim Crow generation is dying off, things are shifting. It may have been a slow change, but I think it has changed, at least in the majority.
    LKJ, I appreciate the dialogue. If we ever meet somehow, I would gladly buy you a beer. It is only through exchange of ideas that we get anywhere. Exercise your right to vote in the upcoming election. I wish you well.

  • LKJ

    Looks like this question answered itself. Good riddance Cain, a.k.a Uncle Ruckus.

    I am so tired of republicans disrespect of minorities and Herman “blacker than Obama” Cain will surely not be missed