A reader writes:
I have to admit being horrified at how horrified people are at Lawrence's interview with Herman Cain. He treated Mr. Cain far more politely than I or virtually any other African-American I know would have given the circumstances. And the circumstances are these. My father attended the University of Texas roughly during the same time period. UT was desegregated at the time, but he has no fond memories of the school, even though any troubles he experienced there were minor in comparison to others. He would eventually go on to Rice University (where he teaches today) for his PhD as the first Black man ever to attend that institution. His admission was delayed a year because White Alumni sued Rice to prevent his entry. He also had to deal with a Professor in Applied Math who publicly vowed that any Black student who enrolled in his class would start at a "C" and head downward.
Still, as angry as he remains to this day over what relatively little happened to him during his stays at both Texas schools, he still found time to test restaurants, because he knew it was his about him and his future children.
He was doing it for me. He also met another student at the time who was also testing restaurants while attending Texas Southern University. Her name was Claudette Smith. I know her today as Mom.
You may argue that Herman Cain had a right not to participate in the Civil Rights Movement, and that may be true. But here's the problem: he's holding himself up as an example of, if not the very pinnacle of, the black community. (Just ask him, he'll be glad to tell you). He has gone so far as to suggest that Black People who do not support him (not give him a fair hearing, mind you, but out-and-out support him) have been brainwashed by the Democratic Party.
May I suggest that my Father and Mother were not brainwashed? May I suggest that they saw with their own eyes who was supporting Civil Rights and who wasn't; and their allegiance forevermore was aligned with the Democratic party.
And for the record, yes, there were Southern Democrats who voted against the 1965 Civil Rights Act. They long ago switched parties and joined Herman Cain's party, the Republicans. I'm sure even Mr. Cain remembers Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act, and saying he was delivering the South to the Republicans for the next 40 years. He was wrong. Try 60-70.
The horrific part of the interview which apparently did not catch your eye, was Lawrence's first asking Mr. Cain if he wanted to back off that "brainwashing" statement. Mr. Cain did not. With him questioning my intelligence as a African-American, I had a right to know where he stood in relation to the community he was questioning I had a right to know what kind of African-American he was, and yes that is something I can judge given the questions Lawrence O'Donnell asked rather haltingly. I had a right to know what he had given to the cause. Because if he had stood with my parents, if he had marched with my parents, then African-Americans as a whole would have shrugged when he called us "brainwashed". At least, we would have decided, he earned the right.
But he didn't. He didn't march. He didn't sit-in. He didn't test. He didn't want to get involved, because frankly, it was probably more important to him to ingratiate himself to his white oppressors. I'm sorry to come off sounding like a member of the Black Panther Party, but we see people like Mr. Cain all the time in the African-American community. The ones who think they're better than the rest of us, smarter, and the only ones fit to lead, the only ones fit to be heard from.