In dating, there is an old axiom which says that if you want to know whether someone is marriage material, watch how s/he treats family. It may be nice that someone has taken personal interest in you; but what's more important is how they treat others, unrelated to their particular interests.
The last part is key..."unrelated to their particular interests."
When Herman Cain won the recent Florida Straw Poll, chants began to grow within the Republican party that the death of racism in both the GOP and America was official. The rationale being that if a Black man can win a GOP straw poll in the "South," then clearly the content of one's character has become the litmus test for America, superseding one's skin color.
First, Florida is not "the South." Geographically yes, but not in terms of historical political sensibilities. Florida's electoral votes have gone to Jimmy Carter (1976), Bill Clinton (1996) and Barack Obama (2008). Florida historically has demonstrated no firm allegiance to either party, despite its geographical location and the Southern Strategy employed by the GOP.
The shortsightedness of proclaiming victory over racism through a singular vote has always blinded one from seeing the true nature of what separates us as people. A vote for one person is not a vote of confidence for the ethnicity he or she represents. It does not equate to tolerance or respect for the fullness of the American color spectrum. It in many ways can be an affirmation of the opposite. Some call it tokenism or political bait and switch. Call it what you want, just don't call it substantive progress.
It is the presumption that singular individuals are worthy of acceptance, not the fullness of the ethnicity in which he/she represents. Let's not delude ourselves. A couple thousand people voting for Herman Cain in Florida on a given day does not in any way invalidate the reality of the history leading up to this moment, both distant and recent.
The post-Dixiecrat GOP earned its reputation through many years of promulgating an anti-civil rights, xenophobic and Islamophobic agenda. Their hard work was not undone in one weekend in sunny Florida.
SB1070 really did happen. Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) really did use "tar baby" in reference to President Obama. The Republican California mayor Dean Grose really did step down for his White House watermelon patch email. This is not ancient history, but relatively recent short-list history.
But back to Herman Cain...
Along those lines, we can not disregard the fact that Cain espouses all of the same xenophobic and racist philosophies familiar to many in the GOP. It's not that Republicans accept Herman Cain with no respect to color, au contraire. His acceptance is tied directly to the anti-Muslim and generally inflammatory rhetoric in historical lock-step with party values.
I am going to take extra precautions if a Muslim person who is competent wants to work in my administration."
I think (President Obama is) out of the mainstream and always has been. Look, he was raised in Kenya, his mother was white from Kansas."
- Herman Cain, June ,2011
The success of Herman Cain in Florida is not indicative of a repudiation of Republican racism, it's the latest endorsement. Herman Cain doesn't challenge historical Republican biases, he offers a leather couch for Republicans to become more comfortable with them.
Colorblind Republican party? Hardly. This is how Herman Cain treats his family and why he is largely rejected by African-Americans.
The reason why it's called "racism" is because it is with respect to the whole of an ethnicity, not singular individuals in which you may find political common ground on a given occasion. For those of you whose "some of your best friends are Black," pay particularly close attention. Voting for the Black man espousing racist ideals doesn't make you less racist, it just means you voted for the Black man espousing racist ideals.
Muslim loyalty tests are by definition racist. Promoting the narrative that the president is less than American and grew up in some underdeveloped African nation is also racist. Voting in support of the candidate who supports such racist ideology is a far more compelling argument for Republican regression, than racial evolution.
Liking Herman Cain (or President Obama) is not tantamount to respect for African-Americans.
And so goes the misguided logic of the Republican party. It has yet to figure out that propping up singular individuals in no way obfuscates what the party is or what they've been. It is why candidates such as Cain, Michael Steele, Ken Blackwell, Lynn Swann, Alan Keyes et al. never seem to find real traction within the African-American community. Simply putting forth a Black face, trumpeting the same hateful or disparaging rhetoric does not make the Republican party less racist or African-Americans supposedly more unintelligent for remaining Democrat. It is just offering more of the same, just in a different colored gift wrap.
Take Congressman Allen West (R-FL) for example.
He referred to fellow Congressman and Muslim Keith Ellison (D-MN) as the "antithesis of the principles on which this country was established"...with respect to his religion. As of other African-Americans...
When Democratic party has taken the Black vote for granted and you have established certain Black leaders who are nothing more than the overseers of that plantation. And now the people on the plantation are upset because they have been disregarded, disrespected and their concerns are not cared about. So I'm here as the modern day Harriet Tubman who kind a lead people on the underground railroad away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility."
- Congressman Allen West (R-FL), August, 2011
This is how Allen West treats his family. African-Americans would never allow a White politician to chastise African-Americans for allegedly remaining on a "Democratic plantation" or employing such racially-charged terminology to disrespect us. Why in the world should it then be considered less offensive coming from the likes of a Black one?
So no, Herman Cain winning the Florida Straw poll does not mean the end of racism any more than President Obama becoming the president of the United States did. In the history of this country, 35 women have served as governor of their respective state and three have run for Vice President of the United States of America. Nowhere and at no time did anyone so foolishly declare the end of sexism or gender inequality. The same reasoning should apply here.
Let's not be so naïve to buy into the narrative that two thousand registered Republicans pulling a lever for Herman Cain in a non-official primary means the GOP world has changed. African-Americans collectively have not gained the respect of America generally or the Republican Party more specifically.
Morris W. O'Kelly (Mo'Kelly) is a political correspondent for the BBC Radio and Television networks and author of the syndicated column The Mo'Kelly Report. For more Mo'Kelly, go to his site. Mo'Kelly can be reached at email@example.com and welcomes all commentary.