Herman Cain and Black Nativism

GOP 2012 Candidate Herman Cain

One of the most interesting candidates for President from the GOP side is Herman Cain. Mr. Cain is a proponent of the Tea Party, and embraces the ideology of conservatism. This site recognizes that Mr. Cain does speak to a constituency, and does not assume that Black American politics are monolithic. As other commentators  have noted, there is a variety in Black politics that is often overlooked. However, in this case, there are some things that need to be observed about the Cain campaign as it stands.

What the Tea Party represents in 2011 is essentially xenophobia and white rage. It is difficult to decouple their opposition to the Obama Administration from a sometimes hidden, sometimes open racialized narrative.  The  Black Tea Partiers function as appendages to a wholly arch-conservative, and by extension anti-Black agenda. When you say utterly reprehensible things like Muslims should be forced to take loyalty oaths for office, then that does nothing but just mimic what white conservatives say and do.

In my analysis, Black conservatism is an appendage of white conservatism. It’s central ideas are little more than white reactionary thoughts expressed by Black adherents. Where we can point to historical instances where Black progressivism has differed and clashed with mainstream white liberalism, one finds very few parallels on the opposing side of the political spectrum. A strong indicator of its subordinate relationship. If any of you can cite examples to the contrary, I welcome you to point them out.

Flowing from conservative ideology is a nativist outlook. While this is espoused by conservatives, it is not an empowering thing for African-Americans to embrace. How does it look for an African-American candidate for president to be assaulting the constitutional rights of Muslims in this country? It places us in a complicit relationship with the oppressive forces out here who actually have the power to make life a living hell for American Muslims. We should not ally ourselves with such reactionary forces.  Because they will turn around and attack us when it is convenient, and when we are no longer “useful” to their agenda.  Look at what happened to Michael Steele. When you have folks who don’t exactly have their pulse on the heart of Black politics like Alan Keyes dialing you back on your rhetoric, then you know something is wrong.

To take it further, I argue that Black Nativism is counterproductive. Nativism doesn’t really serve the progressive purposes of a great deal of Black Americans. The civil rights movement was led by those with progressive instincts. Not one gain was made in this country was made for African Americans by having a reactionary outlook.  While it may be novel for a Tea Party presidential candidate to traffic in these ideas, it is dangerous for African-Americans on the whole to co-sign. When Tea Partiers shriek “I want my country back” we have to wonder who they feel as though have accosted it. Though Herman Cain is not a serious contender on the GOP field, the kind of barbs coming from his campaign show us much about modern politics.

Marc W. Polite



  1. It seems that Herman Cain is focused on emulating the Teddy Long theory of ingratiation without the appeal of being Teddy Long…

    Disregarding clearly un-american sentiments such as forcing muslims to take loyalty oaths (outside of the oaths we have to take as citizens or elected officials already), do you really think that there is no solid justification for a conservative mindset in the black community at large? I’m talking about the non-tea party non-fox news brand of fiscally conservative, free market, “american dream and apple pie”, style of republican conservatism–not this wild super right wing brand.

  2. Good morning Brandon. As far as a foundation for political conservatism in the Black community, while there are pockets of conservative ideas its here and there. I have yet to see a Black conservative with any real roots in the African-American community. There are individual conservatives but they all seem to have an angle. If Black conservatives did not have such a horrible record of failing to call out racism in the Republican party, they may have more credibility amongst those they wish to convince to their way of thinking.

  3. A Gallup poll which came out shortly after 9/11, asking if muslims should be “profiled” revealed not only no difference between blacks and whites in the overwhelmingly affirmative response to the question, but blacks answering “yes” were slightly above whites in number. The NAACP and other civil rights organizations were shocked expressing disbelief in the results of the polling.It all goes to show that racism dos not belong to any group. Also I recall growing up hearing blacks being held responsible for some of the bad situations we find ourselves, in conversations between adults around the dinner table, at the barber shop, etc. None of this blaming racism for everything that’s gone wrong for our people.

  4. Good evening Eric. After 9/11 a climate of fear took over. No one is immune to the hold of mass fear and what it may cause someone to support. Not Black people, not anyone.

    As far as your points on not blaming racism for everything that happens to African Americans, what is the purpose of raising that point? Its not the sole source of our problems but to downplay it would be a mistake.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.