Talkin' about Cain, and other Shuckers
Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver Velez

Logged on here last night, happened to look at hiddens, and curious - found a diary tip jar that had a pile of donuts.  

A Birth of a Herman Cain Nation Moment: Cornbread Can't Help His Love of the White Ladies

Sure it had a provocative title.  

Some folks had already pronounced the writer a troll.  I read it, tipped it and rec'ed it.

The author, Chauncey de Vega is a member of this community.

Here's his bio.

Chauncey DeVega is editor and founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes, which has been featured by the NY Times, the Utne Reader, and The Atlantic Monthly. Writing under a pseudonym, Chauncey DeVega's essays on race, popular culture, and politics have appeared in various books, as well as on such sites as the Washington Post, The Root and PopMatters.

Now some folks were pretty upset about his use of Cornbread in the title. Other folks had issues with another diary he wrote.  

But the late night tempest got me to thinking about how black folks view, and talk about other black people who are dead set on sellin' us all down the river.  It has never been kindly.  Nor do we mince words.  

Rather than depend on the limited number of black voices here at DKos, a brief google around the afrosphere will at least point out how many of us - who blog, have similar visceral responses to Herman Cain.

Cornbread Cometh
Ta-Nehisi Coates

Herman Cain has spent the past year peddling a thin tax policy, fumbling the names of foreign countries, and extolling his love of cornbread. Now, today, he stands accused of crudely fondling a white woman. Surely this is someone's portrait of blackness, but not anyone who would feel at home in Harlem.

Measuring himself against Barack Obama, Herman Cain once threatened give the country a "Real Black Man." From the addled recesses of the white populist imagination, Herman "Cornbread" Cain is charged with delivering.

rikyrah, at Jack and Jill Politics
Herman Cain: Nothing but a Modern Day Minstrel, and a Crooked One at That.

When I saw the video of Herman Cain-SINGING- at the National Press Club, I had a visceral reaction. I wracked my brain trying to come up with the exact word to name what I was feeling when I watched Cain BREAK INTO SONG. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I woke up and realized what he reminded me of:

Dr. Sherman N. Miller writes:

Will Alleged Sexual Harassment Closedown the Herman Cain Minstrel Show?

Cain provides the ultra-rightwing Republican Tea Party Movement a black face in the national spot light to allow them to show that they are not modern day iterations in the evolution of the yesteryear’s Ku Klux Klan.

So far, about the only thing the public knows definitively, is a lawyer for an alleged hush money taker now wants to renege on the deal when the potential for making big money and global recognition appear imminent. I dislike Herman Cain intensely, but I am more concerned about the potential of legal agreements being forced to change from selective leaks to entice the public’s appetite for the gory details.  

I worry that the two women, who purportedly took hush money to keep their mouths shut, will meet the same media fate as Anita Hill where they fade away in the public debate. My guess is the Tea Party Movement will keep Cain in a prominent leadership position in the Republican Presidential Candidate Primary Race unless there is a revelation too awful to sweep under the rug comes to light. Bottom-line: Cain’s demise means that the Tea Party Movement’s lily white conservative persona, yearning for a return to yesteryear’s mainstream mindset, may no longer be shielded by the Herman Cain minstrel show.

Dr Ulli K. Ryder, a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University, weighed in at the Daily News

Herman Cain's use of racial language is rhetoric we must refuse

Obama has been criticized as too elitist, Ivy League and -- by Cain -- not black enough. ("[Obama's] never been a part of the black experience in America," Cain said in a radio interview this month.)

Cain has chosen another path. In order to overcome these criticisms, it appears that he has gone in the opposite direction. His folksy, self-deprecating humor might be a serious attempt to put white audiences at ease.

And putting white audiences at ease is where the issue of minstrelsy comes in. Blackface minstrelsy, a performance style that relied on racist stereotypes and insulting characters such as Uncle Tom and Sambo, became a popular entertainment during the 1830s and persisted well into the 20th century. During this era, minstrel shows were marketed as authentic portrayals of "real" Southern blacks. The fact that these portrayals were full of stereotypes and inaccuracies helped spread and uphold white supremacy and allowed white audiences to feel secure in their superiority over blacks. These portrayals also helped whites ignore any guilt they may have felt — because the black minstrel characters were often happy and never showed any anger at whites for their mistreatment under slavery or Jim Crow laws.

DeVega wrote about this issue a while back

Why I called Herman Cain's CPAC speech a minstrel show

In my original essay, I referred to Cain and other black conservatives as “race minstrels” and “mascots” for the white conservative imagination. I stand by this observation. Whenever Cain and others have an opportunity to engage in “real talk” among their ideological compatriots — to make a public, critical intervention against the racial hostility that drives contemporary American conservatism — they instead stand mute or enable this hostility. When the opportunity to slap down the notion that black people with whom Republicans disagree are “brainwashed” or (in a disgusting abuse of the shared history and legacy of chattel slavery) “on the plantation,” the Herman Cains of the world encourage this lie as one more way of signaling that that they are actually the “authentic” voices of Black America.

This is why I often playfully refer to black conservatives as “garbage pail kids.” They found themselves political outliers in the black community because they could not answer the question, “Where is the love?” Thus, the contemporary faces of black conservatism found lucre showered upon them as they buck-danced and cakewalked on the metaphorical stage of white conservatism. This was a Faustian bargain. But it paid well, and black conservatives found themselves in the company of friends.

Field Negro kept it short and snappy
Did you hear the one about the blond and the pizza man?

Herman, I have some bad news for you: Yes, A-merry-ca loves their house Negroes, but, sadly for you, they love missy even more. Never forget that Herman: all the jigging in the  world can't buy you a sexually harass missy pass.

From The Root:

Is Herman Cain Done?

Cain never was and never will be more than a minstrel act in the Republican nominating process, an entertaining diversion for white conservatives so eager to establish their lack of bigotry through their showy (albeit transitory) support for a black man that they overlook his total lack of qualifications. Indeed, they are so hell bent on thumbing their nose at the mainstream media that they rushed to Cain's defense, driving him even further up in the polls.

But that's a chimera, a blip destined to disappear when the time for Republicans to select their real standard-bearer grows nigh. The white folks who are rallying around Cain right now will throw him under the bus faster than Barack Obama jettisoned the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Until then he'll loiter around, shucking and jiving his way through debates, threatening legal action against the reporters who broke the sexual harassment story and boasting about how close he is to the notorious right-wing financiers David and Charles Koch, whom he considers to be "brothers from another mother." He may even break into song from time to time, as is his wont.

It will, to be sure, be entertaining as all get out, but it will be totally irrelevant. The issues facing this country are way too serious to waste any more time on the pretentious shenanigans of a self-serving egotist behind whose genial image may well lurk a habitual letch. The details that so far have emerged suggest that instead of turning his victims on, Cain's vulgar come-ons gave them the creeps.

An oldie but goodie on you tube channel "Exposing Uncle Toms"


From Angry Black Bitch, who addresses the whole right wing meme of "high tech lynching"...brought back up from Clarence Thomas days.

Digital strange fruit hanging from cyber trees?

I don’t care how much a body adores Herman Cain and I don’t give a shit how upset they are about his treatment in the press, this inaccurate analogy corrupts a history that has never truly been acknowledged.

Herman Cain clearly weathered the storm of more than one accusation of sexual harassment several years ago…his employer settled rather than fire him…he then went on to run for the GOP nomination for President, where he faces questions about those accusations. For the most part, the firestorm has resulted from his campaigns fucked up from the floor up handling of those questions. Either way, Herman Cain will be here once the dust settles. Odds are he’ll even be online in some form or another. He may even be the GOP nominee.  

This shit is in no way, shape, or form the equivalent of a lynching.

A witch-hunt perhaps…depends on how you view the situation.

But I sure as shit don’t see any digital strange fruit hanging from cyber trees…

…anymore than I see that shit when I ponder the fact that the original “victim” of a high tech lynching is still enjoying life as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.


A lot of this has taken me back to a book I read years ago:

Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretative History of Blacks in Films, by black film  critic Donald Bogle

but you might want to read:

Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class

by social historian Eric Lott.

For over two centuries, America has celebrated the very black culture it attempts to control and repress, and nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in the strange practice of blackface performance. Born of extreme racial and class conflicts, the blackface minstrel show sometimes usefully intensified them. Based on the appropriation of black dialect, music, and dance, minstrelsy at once applauded and lampooned black culture, ironically contributing to a "blackening of America." Drawing on recent research in cultural studies and social history, Eric Lott examines the role of the blackface minstrel show in the political struggles of the years leading up to the Civil War. Reading minstrel music, lyrics, jokes, burlesque skits, and illustrations in tandem with working-class racial ideologies and the sex/gender system, Love and Theft argues that blackface minstrelsy both embodied and disrupted the racial tendencies of its largely white, male, working-class audiences. Underwritten by envy as well as repulsion, sympathetic identification as well as fear--a dialectic of "love and theft"--the minstrel show continually transgressed the color line even as it enabled the formation of a self-consciously white working class. Lott exposes minstrelsy as a signifier for multiple breaches: the rift between high and low cultures, the commodification of the dispossessed by the empowered, the attraction mixed with guilt of whites caught in the act of cultural thievery.

So how do we talk about Herman Cain?  

What complicates matters round here - is if black folks use "shuckin and jivin" and "minstrel" to pillory Cain-then we are told that's acceptable to use against the POTUS.  

Other folks have raised the issue of "why deal with his race at all?"

My short answer is that Cain has made his racial acceptability to racist white folks, and dissing black folks his campaign centerpiece, along with his bizarre economics plan.

He's not just any old candidate - he's a Koch-Cain creature.  

The same way Sarah Palin was supposed to attract hordes of former Hillary supporters simply because she has a uterus, Cain is the flypaper to snatch us black folks back to the daze of Lincoln Republicanism.

We are not stupid.  

But the tangled web of how we can talk or snark about all of this in mixed company is problematic.  

I've said my piece - let's hear what y'all have to say on the matter.

                                  News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor

Kevin Clash on the evolution of his iconic sesame street character. Huffington Post: Kevin Clash, The Voice And Soul Of Elmo

When he was growing up outside of Baltimore in the 1970s, Kevin Clash had aspirations that were a little different from his friends. Some wanted to play pro sports. Others wanted to get college degrees. Clash wanted to be a puppeteer — and work with Jim Henson.

Clash has honed his skills creating and animating puppets since the age of 10. He landed his first paying television gig in his late teens for a CBS affiliate in Baltimore, where he ultimately attracted the attention of Muppet designer and future mentor, Kermit Love, who introduced the ambitious teen to legendary puppeteer Jim Henson, who created Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and dozens of other famous characters.

Following brief stints on the popular kids shows "The Great Space Coaster" and "Captain Kangaroo," Clash made his "Sesame Street" debut in 1984, as the voice of Baby Natasha and Hoots the Owl. Clash said that Henson told him to "just be as silly as you want. Muppets are rebellious and that's the way they should be. Don't take it too seriously."

"What I loved about Jim was that he was the boss, but he really felt as though everybody was an ensemble," Clash told Huffington Post BlackVoices. "He wanted everybody to chime in."

But when Clash started at Sesame Street, he wasn't in charge of voicing the character that would make him famous.

"It's always been troubleshooting on 'Sesame Street,'" Clash said. "If you watched the shows in the beginning, as far as what Big Bird or the Muppets looked like, they were a lot more primitive ... and they evolved as the show evolved and became more and more works of art."

Several Sesame Street vets had taken turns trying to give Elmo, an overlooked red puppet created by the team, some kind of distinct personality. "It started with Brian Muehl, who performed on a couple of shows. Then Richard Hunt, who was one of the more seasoned puppeteers who had worked with Jim Henson, took him on and didn't want him and threw him to me. And it stuck with me once I got it."

Clash decided to revamp Elmo's original persona — which included a deep caveman voice — into something more lovable. He made Elmo a curious, energetic three-year old. Clash said that of all his characters, Elmo is the one that audiences gravitated toward to. "And by them latching on, Elmo's on a lot. And the more that he's on, the more I can do a lot of things with him. The more I get to know the character."

Clash's reinvention of Elmo was so successful that it resulted in a global merchandising campaign.

tMark Whitaker recounts his multi-racial, multi-ethnic, family tree. New York Times: Born Along the Racial Fault Line

As a social studies major in his junior year at Harvard, Mark Whitaker attended a debate on the subject of ethnicity. One participant was the chairman of the department. Mr. Whitaker stood up to raise some questions.

“What would you tell someone who didn’t have a clear ethnic identity?” he asked. “For example, what would you tell someone who had one parent who was black and another who was white? Who had one parent who was American and another who was European? Who had moved dozens of times as a child and didn’t have a specific place to call home?” Everyone in the room knew that Mr. Whitaker was talking about himself.

“I guess I would say that that’s too bad,” the professor answered. “In the future I hope we don’t have too many more people like you.”

Mr. Whitaker recounts this story in “My Long Trip Home,” a book filled with as much family tumult as Jeannette Walls described in “The Glass Castle” and a racial factor to boot. It’s a story that registers not only for its shock value but also for the perspective and wisdom with which it can now be told.

The episode did not anger him, he said. He saw it as his professor’s Freudian slip, “exposing a wish to hold on to a sense of certainty about his roots in the face of a gathering demographic storm that hreatened to wash them away.”

Chinese-run copper mines in Zambia are dangerously unsafe and owners routinely flout the rights of workers, says a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). BBC: China mines in Zambia 'unsafe' says Human Rights Watch

The pressure group says miners are threatened with dismissal if they became involved in union activities. It urged Zambia's new President, Michael Sata, to fulfil election promises and take decisive action against the owners.

The Chinese state company running the mines denied most of HRW's allegations. Copper mining is one of Zambia's main industries, providing nearly three-quarters of the country's exports; many of the mining companies are foreign-owned.

The Human Rights Watch report entitled "You'll Be Fired If You Refuse": Labour Abuses in Zambia's Chinese State-owned Copper Mines, highlights "persistent abuses".

It said miners had to work 12-hour shifts often in fume-filled tunnels. Sometimes shifts were 18 hours long. Zambian law limits shifts to eight hours.

The report said that despite improvements in recent years, safety and labour conditions at Chinese mines were worse than at other foreign-owned mines.

Can intergration of public schools at last be achieved? New York Times: Merger of Memphis and County School Districts Revives Race and Class Challenges

When thousands of white students abandoned the Memphis schools 38 years ago rather than attend classes with blacks under a desegregation plan fueled by busing, Joseph A. Clayton went with them. He quit his job as a public school principal to head an all-white private school and later won election to the board of the mostly white suburban district next door.

Now, as the overwhelmingly black Memphis school district is being dissolved into the majority-white Shelby County schools, Mr. Clayton is on the new combined 23-member school board overseeing the marriage. And he warns that the pattern of white flight could repeat itself, with the suburban towns trying to secede and start their own districts.

“There’s the same element of fear,” said Mr. Clayton, 79. “In the 1970s, it was a physical, personal fear. Today the fear is about the academic decline of the Shelby schools.”

“As far as racial trust goes,” Mr. Clayton, who is white, added, “I don’t think we’ve improved much since the 1970s.”

The merger — a result of actions by the Memphis school board and City Council, a March referendum and a federal court order — is the largest school district consolidation in American history and poses huge logistical challenges. Memphis teachers are unionized, Shelby County’s are not; the county owns its yellow buses, the city relies on a contractor; and the two districts use different textbooks and different systems to evaluate teachers.


Voices and Soul


by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Editor

I was near the same age as the four young schools girls killed in the 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. When I read about it at the time, I cried to my parents how such a sin could be dealt? No ready answers could appease my grief.

Probably more than any other event, the murder of those young girls galvanized within me a steely resolve to fight injustice, racism and hate.

It has been a long struggle and I know the struggle will be long.

And I struggle still, because the grief I have for those young girls is as raw now as when I first read about it at the age of eight years old in 1963.

Ballad of Birmingham

(On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963)

“Mother dear, may I go downtown
Instead of out to play,
And march the streets of Birmingham
In a Freedom March today?”

“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For the dogs are fierce and wild,
And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
Aren’t good for a little child.”

“But, mother, I won’t be alone.
Other children will go with me,
And march the streets of Birmingham
To make our country free.”

“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For I fear those guns will fire.
But you may go to church instead
And sing in the children’s choir.”

She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair,
And bathed rose petal sweet,
And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,
And white shoes on her feet.

The mother smiled to know her child
Was in the sacred place,
But that smile was the last smile
To come upon her face.

For when she heard the explosion,
Her eyes grew wet and wild.
She raced through the streets of Birmingham
Calling for her child.

She clawed through bits of glass and brick,
Then lifted out a shoe.
“O, here’s the shoe my baby wore,
But, baby, where are you?”

-- Dudley Randall


Front Porch Music - a tribute to Smokin’ Joe Frazier

Rest In Peace



The Front Porch is now open.

Originally posted to Black Kos community on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 01:59 PM PST.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges and DKOMA.

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