Herman Cain and I were born just after World War II ended in 1945, me in October and him in December. We both just missed being part of the official baby boom which started in 1946. It was a good time to grow up. When I see movies from the late 40’s, the 50’s and early ’60’s I feel warm nostalgia.
But I was white in a white man’s USA. I love my country, but even after the big war “colored folks” certainly had a very different experience than mine.
Racism was part of everyday life in Buffalo. Lackawanna where I was born was strictly segregated. Blacks lived across the main rail lines near the huge Bethlehem Steel Works in what was known as the “lower end” I was about seven or eight when I saw my first black person. We didn’t speak; we just sort of circled one another there at the corner of Barry St and Electric Ave. I described him to my mom who told me he was a colored person.
Another encounter: We didn’t have a car, but one day our family was invited by a neighbor to join his brood on a picnic at Chestnut Ridge Park. We piled in the big sedan and traveled south to the park in search of a pavilion. The neighbor stopped beside a dense growth of bushes to check for an empty spot. He soon returned and told no one in particular that this area “was loaded with N****rs” I asked what a “n****r was, and the adults roared with laughter. Some one said “You’ll find out”
One of the great social sins in the City of Good Neighbors was to “sell to a n****r.” which meant selling your home to a non-white. Marrying a black person? Not recommended. Dangerous actually if the happy couple strayed from Buffalo’s east side.
There were blacks who could find a reasonably hospitable reception in some limited ways. Luke Easter, the home-run hitting first baseman of the local Bisons team was very popular and started a successful business. A buddy of mine went on a racial rant one day and I asked about Miles Davis whose jazz we both admired. He told me that he regarded black entertainers and musicians as a kind of very talented “trained seal” Being cursed with both high intelligence and a hatred of bullyism I realized at just that moment that this wasn’t so much hatred as selective insanity. These particular moments are as clear to me now as the day they happened.
1950’s wit and wisdom on race: You can take the n****r out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the n****r. Black males were called “bucks”. If you came unexpectedly into a small sum of money you were “n****r rich. A well-known dogma was “they all” meaning black men want white girls. The Summa Theologica of racism was much vaster than this of course, but you get the idea.
So it, I am certain, was no easy thing to be one of the Queen City of the Great Lakes black citizens. But it was de facto. Down below the Mason-Dixon line it was de jure. It was Jim Crow. It was murder by hanging, bombing, the bullet. It was the sunset law as in Scott County TN where blacks were welcomed with signs warning them not to “let the sun go down on them” while still in the county.
Then there was Assault by Leer. This was a crime. In 1952 a 45 year-old black man, Mack Ingram, was charged with this crime in North Carolina. His accuser was a 19 year-old white woman who said Ingram had eyed her from his car while driving by her family’s farm. At no time did Ingram come closer to the young woman than about 60 feet. She testified that his “leering” frightened her. An all white-male jury found Ingram guilty and he was given a six-month suspended sentence and five years probation. The “lenient” sentence came on an appeal of the original two-year jail term. The appeal came when the case drew national and international attention and the NAACP sent legal help. In 1953 the verdict was reversed by the NC Supreme Court.
Young Herman Cain grew up in a part of the United States where a black man could do jail time for looking at a white woman. Herman Cain at some point made the decision that he would prosper. He did prosper. And I admire him as I admire anyone who has faced down bullyism especially government sanctioned bullyism.
Cain still faces racial animousity. MSNBC “analyst” Karen Finney unashamably says white conservatives are okay with Cain because “he knows his place” This latter is right out of the bad old days usually followed by “He’s a credit to his race”
Now in addition to the kind of reverse race card people like Finney play he faces two other favorites from the leftist/Leninist handbook: the dumb card and the sex card.
The dumb accusation stems from Cain stating that China is seeking to develop its nuclear capability. Thus he proves, critics claim, he doesn’t know China has the big bad bomb. This is easily dismissed. Critics either don’t know or claim not to know the meaning of develop. I’ve checked three dictionaries today and have been reassured that using “develop” to indicate greater capability than now exists is perfectly proper. Tom Edison invented the electric light bulb. Imagine seeing a newspaper headline a decade later “General Electric seeking to develop electric light capability” and concluding GE didn’t have electric lights.
As for the allegation of allegations it bothers me not a wit. The “third” woman, anonymous of course, didn’t even bother to make a complaint. Now 12 years later she wants to tell her story. Sorry Ms Anonymous the Dave O’Connor statute of limitations on 12 year-old non complaints has long since run. As for the two others we only know they took some dough and legally bound themselves to silence. Now at least one wants to talk. No one stopping you dear heart. But I do have two words of caution: liquidated damages. Ask your legal beagle about that.
The MSM will of course demand this and that. Herman Cain has from the start, contrary to the talking head commentary, been completely consistent on the main point. He denies any sexual harassment. The media keeps the story going by demanding details. Hey, you want details. Do some digging. As a former print and broadcast reporter I’m all for that; all for it providing the end result provides thing like Who, What, When etc. You know like you learned in J-school. If the various W’s aren’t provided in concrete fashion, I will continue to be sceptical. If and when solid detail is reported it will get my respectful attention. But unless it points to deep character defects a’la Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy and JFK it won’t make any real impression on me at least.
Right at this moment it’s all a little to close to assault by leer to suit this child of 1945.
And the harder Cain punches back the better I like it. I’m sick to death of smiling, compromising conservatism. Fight. Fight hard Mr Cain.
And I believe he will and all conservatives will benefit.