Herman Cain’s collective of recent statements is really beginning to expose the character of the lone “African-American” GOP presidential candidate. His latest foot-in-the-mouth fiasco occurred Sunday when he stated “I don’t believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way. Are there some elements of racism? Yes, it gets back to if we don’t grow this economy, that is a ripple effect for every economic level, and because blacks are more disproportionately unemployed, they get hit the worst when economic policies don’t work. That’s where it starts”. I would love to find the location of this Utopian oasis where Mr. Cain appears to reside so I can experience some of this Kumbaya, colorless bliss.
The fact that this man is a graduate of an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) makes his statements even more of a travesty. While it is true that African-Americans are not being blasted with water cannons in the streets, not being forced to sit in the back of the bus and not being physically lynched with reckless abandon as in years past, the socio-economic playing field is far from being level. The racism that exists in this country, although not being as historically overt, is much more systematic, meticulous and exploitive of minorities. Just one look at the deterioration of public schools in urban environments is evidence enough of the neglect on local, state and federal levels. Unemployment for African-Americans has ALWAYS been disproportionately higher than any other ethnic demographic in this country, with a rate of 19.5% unemployment according to Bureau of Labor statistics. The only time in American history when African-Americans had less unemployment than whites was during the Slavery Era; which was “full employment” in its truest sense (facetiously speaking, of course).
What is less obvious and perhaps more underhanded are the practices of redlining and predatory lending. On the surface, they appear to be complete opposites, but in actuality both are two sides of the same insidious coin. Redlining, a term coined by Northwestern University sociologist and community activist John McKnight in the late 1960s, was a technique used by banks to delineate where they would not invest. The more accurate description of this practice is the demarkation of certain districts occupied by ethnic minorities in order to deny the infusion of money and resources by private institutions. The roots of redlining go back to the , which established the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The federal government contributed to the early decay of inner city neighborhoods by withholding mortgage capital and making it difficult for these neighborhoods to attract and retain families able to purchase homes. In 1935, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board asked the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) to look at 239 cities and create “residential security maps” to indicate the level of security for real-estate investments in each surveyed city. Such maps defined many minority neighborhoods in cities as ineligible to receive financing. The maps were based on assumptions about the community, not accurate assessments of an individual’s or household’s ability to satisfy standard lending criteria. Since African-Americans were not welcomed in white neighborhoods, which frequently instituted racial restrictive agreements restrict residential status, the policy effectively meant that blacks could not secure mortgage loans in any aspect. At various times the practice also affected other ethnic groups, including Latinos, Asians, and Jews. The assumptions in redlining resulted in a large increase in residential racial segregation and urban decay in the United States.
On the other hand, the most recent application of institutionalized racism are the predatory lending practices. Lending institutions routinely and deliberately targeted minorities and women by deceptively convincing borrowers to agree to unfair and abusive loan terms, or systematically violating those terms in ways that make it difficult for the borrower to defend against. Payday loans, title loans, overdraft protection and other types of consumer debt have been and continue to be used in targeting minorities and the poor in this country. The immediate effects of these racist tactics pale in comparison to the long term effects. Families who lost their homes due to the unscrupulous actions of these parasites face a multitude of financial difficulties; some of which many find it impossible from which to recover. Now, rather than appropriating resources to achieve greater prosperity, victims of these practices are forced to redirect their minimal resources just in order to survive.
These are just but two examples of the institutionalized racism that exists in American society. Failure to recognize the reality of this paradigm demonstrates either denial of the truth or just plain stupidity and ignorance. Capitalism, as successful it has been in augmenting economic prosperity for many in this country, has proven to an absolute failure in the protection and stewardship of the overall collective of humanity. It is fundamentally flawed from the viewpoint that as the progression of material gain and economic power increases, inevitably there will be an increase of those who will be left behind in its wake. As a result, increasing numbers of people become mired in poverty and hopelessness.
As for Herman Cain and his “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” attitude, That would be a nice sentiment if everyone had boots. For every Herman Cain that THINKS he worked his way up to where he is because of his own efforts, there is an exponential number of those who have worked just as hard and did not achieve the level of success as he… nowhere near that level. Herman Cain, in spite of his talents and abilities, did not reach that level of success without the blood, sweat and tears of those who laid it all on the line before him. Capitalism is a zero-sum game. It is not designed for everyone to achieve economic success. Some will win and some will lose. So, when you factor in racism and other types of socio-economic strategies in order to suppress the masses, not only do you not have a level playing field, you have a system that has been formulated to sequester the dominion of comprehensive power to a relative few. That having been said, we as a society need to make a decision as to whether we shall continue to accept the status quo that protects the affluent while leaving the remaining population to fend for themselves or shall we become a nation that sees each individual as being truly equal to one another and abandoning the absurd mentality of economic gain without restraint.