"Now people are over this first black president thing," he said. "But there are some people who will say, 'I'm not going to vote for another black guy because this one didn't work out. And my response is, 'Well, what about those 43 white guys you put in there? How did they work out? Don't condemn me because the first black one was bad."
There was another interesting episode when Cain was asked on his radio show why he speaks so highly of the founding fathers, even though they owned slaves.
"They set the bar high when they said all men were created equal," Cain said. "They could have set it where they were that day. They set it high so this nation could work up to that ideal."
One thing that people can say about Herman Cain is that he was a successful businessman. As the CEO and part owner of Godfather's Pizza, Cain has accumulated enough wealth and success to consider himself to be a serious candidate for the presidency. With that said, Cain also has a set of views that are reflective of the diversity of opinions within the African-American community, presenting an interesting contrast to those who want to put all black people into a nice, neat, little "liberal" box.
Let's be clear, I don't agree with Herman Cain. I have a difficult time appreciating any African American who panders for votes by effectively saying, "I stand with you in your disdain for the way black people behave. I assure you that I'm different from the rest of them." Such a divide-and-conquer political strategy has been used since we had the house negro/field negro divide during slavery (there is no faster route to the top of the political heap than by becoming a black Republican). Rather than using hatred toward President Obama as a weapon for his own political advancement, Cain might be more respectable if he simply stood on his own credentials (as his fellow conservative Colin Powell might do). Being a black conservative presidential candidate doesn't mean you have to disrespect the first black president.
With that said, many of Cain's views reflect a peculiar paradox within the black community: the fact that black people are actually incredibly conservative. When it comes to views on gay marriage, abortion, the separation of church and state, etc., African Americans have quite a few viewpoints that align more closely with the Republican right than with liberals who've come to "save us." The problem for Republicans, however, is that they insist on advocating for programs that hurt the poor, which has a disproportionate impact on the African-American community. Their opposition to Affirmative Action and constant attacks on President Obama don't help their cause very much either.
While the existence of men like Herman Cain represents a stomach-churning example of how the disease of racism continues to affect our society, the truth is that Cain also represents the very best of what America can possibly be. I won't vote for Herman Cain, but I am glad that there are black politicians who allow African Americans to jump outside of predefined stereotypes given to us by the media and our political leaders. There's no one way to be black, and both Herman Cain and President Obama reflect the diversity of the black experience in America.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.