If former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and current GOP presidential contender Herman Cain is sticking with his claim that President Barack Obama ”>isn’t a “real black man,” then he needs a better definition of what he thinks a real black man is.
Because Obama doesn’t have to prove he’s black to anyone.
Put aside the stereotypes that might offer circumstantial evidence of Obama’s blackness: he played high school hoops, smokes Newports, and pulls only for the White Sox — never the Cubs.
And dispense with technicalities: Cain can proudly trace his roots to African-American slaves — but to pinpoint his own African heritage, all that President Obama really needs is Google maps.
What’s at issue isn’t any one man’s definition of blackness. It’s Cain’s willingness to play the “blacker than thou” card to hang onto the spotlight that’s already begun fading from his grasp.
Doubling down on his claim that liberals are scared that “a real black man might run against Barack Obama,” Cain — who’s never held elected office — tells the New York Times Magazine in this coming Sunday’s issue that Obama isn’t ”>“a strong black man that I’m identifying with,” and then chides that “a real black man is not timid about making the right decisions” before smoothing out his attack with the meaningless caveat that “If he wants to call himself African-American, fine. I’m not going down this color road.”
Right — because there’s nothing racial about telling a black man that he’s not a “real” black man.
WATCH MSBNC’S HERMAN CAIN: OBAMA NOT A “STRONG” BLACK MAN
Cain must figure that he’s “keeping it real” every time he jumps at the chance to point out that he grew up in the Jim Crow South while not-so-real Obama’s “mother was white and father was from Africa.” But before the self-described “American Black Conservative” gets to pat himself on the back for how real he thinks he’s keeping it, there’s a few items he might want to ponder:
From Another Mother — But Still A Brother
If Cain thinks it’s breaking news that a biracial guy who grew up in Honolulu hasn’t had the “typical” black experience, he’s a little late with that information. He might want to check out a library book called We Already Covered This In ‘08.Reverse Race Card
Cain likes to say that just because his own tea party supporters can’t stand Obama, that doesn’t make them racist — and he’s right. And the fact that they also dig Cain doesn’t mean they’re not.
Vice President Cornel West?
It might pain the clean-shaven, double-breasted-suit-wearing Cain to note that he’s reading from exactly the same sheet of music as the ultra-progressive and Afro wearing Ivy-League celebrity Cornel West, who recently went on record saying that Obama has a fear “of free black men.”
We Shan’t Overcome
Plus, Cain can says that he identifies “with a strong black man like Martin Luther King, Jr.” (Who doesn’t?), but he should probably concede that if push came to shove, King — a community organizer whose very last speech was given in support of the striking Memphis sanitation workers union — would probably vote for Obama.
Still Number One
And no matter what kind of job you think of he’s doing, Obama — for better or worse — is first. He’s the African-American George Washington. Maybe the next black president will be better, but as likely Republican primary voter Ricky Bobby would say, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
But if there’s one thing that Cain and Obama would probably agree on, it’s that if there’s anything overwhelmingly distressing the African-American community, it’s the lack of fathers parenting their kids which is the job of a real man, black or otherwise. And when it comes to being dad-in-chief, there is no one — left, right, or center — who thinks Obama isn’t doing a heck of a job…
Unless, of course, Cain wants to argue that Obama — with his Norman Rockwell-esque family — needs a little work as a husband and a father.
Cain’s a talk-radio favorite, he sat on the board of the Kansas City fed, and he polls a respectable third behind Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann. But he ought to leave the “real black man” shtick alone and stick to criticizing Obama’s tax policy or explaining how his business experience would have helped him hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden in less time than the two-and-a-half years it took Obama.
When it’s all said and done, two black men are running for president and voters won’t be deciding which one they believe is more “real.” They’‘ll be choosing the guy who they think is “for real.”
David Swerdlick’s writing has appeared in The American Prospect, The New York Daily News, PopMatters, Creative Loafing — Charlotte’s free weekly—and NPR.com. Follow him on Twitter.