The revelation that Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, as CEO of the National Restaurant Association, engaged in behavior that led the organization to enter into financial settlements (including non-disclosure agreements) with two employees has left a wake of collateral damage and irresponsible race.
The most notable damage has been done to Cain's campaign. While I never thought he had a serious chance of winning the Grand Old Party's presidential nomination, this pretty much seals the deal. Unworkable tax plans, a narrow world view, and, now, a history of contractually-acknowledged questionable sexual behavior towards women is not the making of a winning politician in a party that has become, for some, a magnet for racial hostility.
The more important damage has been done to our already weakened racial discourse. The problem here begins with Cain, who has played cute on race. As a graduate of historically Black Morehouse College, he should know better than to ignore the racism that exists within the ranks of some Tea Party supporters while, out of the other side of his mouth, contend that Black people cannot think for themselves and are brainwashed by a "Democratic plantation."
The irresponsible race talk is made worse by conservative talking heads who have used Cain's race to obfuscate the facts in this matter. Ann Coulter is leading the this-is-nothing-more-than-liberal-media-going-after-a-conservative-Black-man. The argument is so weak, than Coulter was reduced to digging up and using Clarence Thomas' tired "high tech lynching" line; it was a ridiculous then and remains so today. The Irresponsibles, as I call them, are throwing dust in the eyes of the public trying to get people to believe that the issue is Cain's ideology and race rather than behavior. My answer to those who claim the media never goes after liberal Whites in this way? Bill Clinton.
Coulter, as usual, leads the parade of The Irresponsibles. Her quip that "our Blacks are so much better than their Blacks" suggests to me that she views Black people as mere trinkets for conservatives to carry around in their pockets. Are the "better Blacks" on her side of the fence not offended by her continued condescension on race? They need to know that silence is consent.
Ultimately, The Irresponsibles are silent on his behavior -- sufficiently egregious in the eyes of NRA lawyers and board members that they had to pay two employees to literally buy their silence -- and the issue of sexual harassment in the work place. In being so irresponsible on Cain, they give cover to those who do not want to take workplace harassment seriously. They are so blinded by rigid ideology that they cannot wrap their heads around the facts. The NRA signed an agreement with the accusers. He acknowledged the agreement. While he initially lied about whether there were actual charges, throwing liberal-media-is-out-to-get-me dust in the air, his defense has never been believable. Yet The Irresponsibles continue their march off the cliff of reason and into the valley of ideological lies.
Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of public policy at George Mason University where recently convened a national conference on race and public policy. He is also author of Republicans and the Black Vote. He He blogs at MichaelFauntroy.com.