Whiteness feeds criticism of Herman Cain

The  media, Republican presidential contenders, people of color and pearl-clutching white Americans resoundingly denounced the former name of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s hunting ranch (See Washington Post article if you’re completely clueless).

Everyone from Republican presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Herman Cain to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie denounced Niggerhead, which was painted on a rock at the entrance of the camp. The Perry campaign camp contends the rock was painted over soon after the governor’s family purchased the camp, but others, according to the Washington Post article, said they remember seeing Niggerhead still on the rock well into the 1990s.

While no one came out and blatantly called Perry a racist, many called Perry’s actions “insensitive” to leave the name up for as long as he allegedly did.

In an predictable interesting turn of events, conservative media pundits and activists have turned against Herman Cain, the sole black candidate running for the Republican presidential nomination, for his criticism. These activists called Cain’s reaction a calculated response employed by Cain to get ahead in the polls.

From Dan Amira:

Cain wasn’t expressing reasonable grievances — he was “piling on” and legitimizing a sleazy political attack.

From the king of conservative smear tactics, Rush Limbaugh:

So here you have the Washington Post with an unsupported nonstory, and here comes Herman Cain piggybacking on it trying to capitalize on it, essentially letting the mainstream media (in this case, the Washington Post) set the narrative. It’s exactly what I mean. There’s this… I don’t know if you call it a fear or just a mistaken belief that the power in media still exclusively resides in the mainstream media, and it’s those people that you have to get on your side; those people you have to use to get your message out, or what have you, and so that leads to pandering to them. Cain is doing it in this case. The Republican leadership in both the House and Senate are renowned for doing it throughout all of our lives. Even some Republican presidents have done so.

There are no on-the-record sources for this. Cain is out there saying that Perry’s rock stuff was “insensitive.” Perry and his dad tried to cover it up and Herman Cain is out there saying that Perry’s insensitive. There are no on-the-record sources in the Washington Post for this story. You remember Macaca? They got George Allen out of the presidential race, senator from Virginia, by claiming that he uttered some racial epithet or insult. You know, he called some traveling Democrat troublemaker “Macaca.” It’s a good thing the rock didn’t say “Hymietown.” Yeah, or “white interloper.”

Well, the Reverend Jackson has famously referred to New York City as “Hymietown,” and Reverend Sharpton has been on the record berating “white interlopers” in Harlem. This is insulting to everybody’s intelligence. It is part of the Democrat Party media template or playbook from 30/40 years ago. It’s a stretch and it’s a grasp. There is certainly no substance to it, and there was no reason for Herman Cain to try to piggyback this. Nobody, nobody on the record will say that they saw the word on the rock after 1983. Nobody will even say on the record that they saw it, and yet we’ve got this big story about it. I don’t remember the Washington Post turning over any rocks when Obama was running for office.

From Eric Erikson: It also seems to be a slander Herman Cain is picking up and running with as a way to get into second place.

From The Daily Caller:  My take? Cain’s comments were — at best – premature — and at worst, highly irresponsible. It was a cheap shot, and perhaps is a signal that Cain is willing to play the race card against a fellow Republican when it benefits him. The fact that Cain spoke out so soon — basing his comments on a newly-posted and thinly-sourced article published by an outlet many conservatives believe to have a liberal bias — speaks to Cain’s lack of political judgment.

So, a black man’s criticism a blatantly offensive name for a hunting camp is not racist, but an opportunistic attack on the white Republican front runner. Reverse racism!

It’s been a little amusing, but frustrating, to watch and listen to conservative white men lay into the only black candidate who, as a person of color, has the right to judge what’s racially insensitive or not. It’s also been nevertheless not surprising these conservative white men would throw such a tantrum over Cain’s criticism.

In a post I wrote last month about confronting privilege, the argument I make about the diversion tactics used by whites when confronted with racism goes hand-in-hand with this situation. There I wrote:

Confronting whiteness, privilege and oppression is a cumbersome task, as naysayers are masters at using the tool of diversion, which can be exhausting when trying to confront and prevent. As an example, confronting a co-worker who makes a racist comment almost always ends with said co-worker saying, “you’re calling me a racist.” The co-worker usually is rarely forced to re-evaluate why their comments could be viewed as offensive as they often divert a person’s confrontation of that comment into a personal attack on them. This lack of check and balances happens because those who were taken aback by offensive comments typically hold their tongue since their concerns will most likely be swept under the rug as the diversion tactic employed by the person in question shifts the issue from the offending statements to validating their belief that they aren’t racist (or homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic, etc). In other words, the person in question will seek the opinions of others (usually those who look and think like them–and a few tokens who won’t rock the boat) to prove to the person raising the questions that they really are good people and they are just being too sensitive for getting offended by their comments. Thus the problem continues.

Notice how the Niggerhead controversy has shifted from Rick Perry’s alleged insensitive judgment to the person of color who is actually standing up and speaking out against the issue. Conservatives, as the naysayers in this bunch, were successful in shifting the focus from the insensitive person with the nonchalant attitude about the offensive nature of the name to the person’s of color accusation of racial insensitivity.

As we’ve seen in controversy surrounding racial incidents, whiteness has a tendency to shift the debate away from what was deemed offensive to how they feel about racist events. Whiteness and white privilege gives white people the belief that they have the authority to judge what oppressed groups should and shouldn’t view as racist and that their reaction to such controversy is the only legitimate source of outrage. Only the pearl-clutchers and their response to the Perry controversy are valid.

As conservative white men, each of the naysayers above asserted their dominance over Herman Cain and decided for him whether or not he should view this incident as insensitive and offensive. These men decided that Herman Cain, as a black man, does not have the authority to label anything as racially insensitive, but they as white men have the unbiased authority to make that decision. As conservative white men, these pundits and activists have once again put whiteness’ reaction to charges of racism at the focal point of the debate–not on the racial insensitivity often shown by white people.

These conservative white men have taken it upon themselves to judge whether or not this will be an issue in Perry’s campaign. They have taken it upon themselves to decide whether this is a reflection upon Perry’s views of race and whether or not if the Texas governor is indeed a racist. Whiteness has allowed these men to be the superior judge on whether or not Perry is insensitive or racist for his ambivalent response and reaction to the discovery. Whiteness allowed these conservative white men to reduce and erase the perspective of Cain, a POC, as trivial and place themselves as the ultimate decision maker on Perry’s sensitivity.

Herman Cain, if he earns the Republican presidential nomination, will be what I called black-lined. He will be a symbol of the nation’s progress, but will be forbidden address and confront the subtle, micro-aggressive forms of racism many POCs face on a daily basis. This black-lining imposed by the white liberal media elites, conservative media pundits, activists and lay white men and women onto POCs is another way for whiteness to assert its dominance and control over oppressed groups from speaking out against the repressive nature of whiteness. President Barack Obama has faced the same sort of black-lining, as he’s become the epitome of whites’ believing they indeed are good people who follow Dr. King’s creed of not judging people by their skin color. After all, they DID make him the first black president…

Obama was reminded of the black line when in 2009 he openly criticized the unjust arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in front of his own home. Much like these conservative white have done to Herman Cain, mainstream America came down hard on Obama for daring to disrupt their white-washed perspective of contemporary American society that allows them to live their lives without the issue of race coming to the surface.

If Herman Cain becomes the Republican presidential nominee, whiteness will attempt to keep him on a short leash. Cain will be allowed to American for its artificial triumph over racial discrimination, but asked to keep quiet when proof of racism’s inconspicuous, pervasive nature in American culture comes to surface.