I don’t know about you but i have about had it with Herman Cain. I never agreed with his politics but the more that i see him perform in front of white audiences the more it feels like a political minstrel show. His sense of so-called humor, including his bizarre ad that ends with cigarette smoke being blown into the camera, has reached the level of insulting.
The particular ”joke” that sticks in my craw, however, is his comment concerning the putting up of an electrified fence across our southern border in order to stop immigrants from crossing illegally into the USA. When pushed about this comment–that not a few people took quite seriously–he claimed that it was a joke. A joke? It starts to remind me of action on the streets where someone talks about someone else’s mother but keeps a smile on their face. A joke, Mr. Cain?
What is so funny about people attempting to escape desperate and oppressive situations? Nearly a century ago, many of the ancestors of today’s African American population took dramatic and dangerous steps to escape the vicious oppression and lawlessness we faced in the Jim Crow South. Hundreds of thousands began the trek north, facing death and torture along the way. The ruling elite in the South wanted African Americans to remain in the South serving a subordinate role. As World War I hit, industry in the North desperately needed labor, much the way that various industries in today’s USA have looked for cheap labor. They encouraged African Americans to migrate to fill these roles in cities like East St. Louis, Illinois; Chicago; Detroit; Youngstown; and Pittsburgh. As these masses of migrants moved into these cities they were met with the most intense push back coming from white workers who saw the African American migrants as people who had arrived to steal their jobs and undermine their living standards. Rather than focusing on the way that big business was playing off white workers against blacks, these whites did everything they could to chase our ancestors out. The bloody Red Summer of 1919 with the race riots that mirrored a mini-civil war was one example.
I keep wondering whether Mr. Cain thinks that, perhaps, an electrified fence should have been put around the South to keep migrants penned in like animals? I keep wondering whether Mr. Cain is ignorant enough to not understand that the migration from Latin America and the Caribbean is directly related to the domineering policies of the USA towards these countries and the resulting underdevelopment?
A joke, Mr. Cain? Perhaps he would do better reading a little history. Sometimes, as my father would say, it is better to remain silent and to be thought a fool than open your mouth and prove it.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.