As the news of sexual harassment claims against Herman Cain circulated like wildfire throughout the early week’s news cycle, now is probably the best – and uncomfortable time – to pontificate on the racial dimensions of this story. Obviously Cain is Black, so that’s easy – but, what about the accusers?
How will this play out once the race of the women are revealed? Telling is that POLITICO won’t yet reveal that piece – claiming respect for their anonymity (as if journalists really cared about non-disclosure agreements), yet it’s only a matter of time.
Many people have already drawn parallels to the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. A conservative, Republican Black man on the rise and on the verge of a crucial upgrade in stature, suddenly stalled by allegations of sexual harassment. Sound eerily familiar? The parallels are uncanny and timely given the Anita Hill hearings took place twenty years ago around this same time.
The question is how problematic this becomes if Cain’s accusers are Black … or if they’re White. Cain, because he’s a Black male Republican, is already dogged by unfounded rumors within the Black community that he’s married to a White woman. But, he’s not. His wife is as Black as he is.
Our nation has a sordid history when it comes to interracial relationships and romance, a history that is also jagged and disturbing – think 1955: Emmit Till. Thus, if it gets out that Cain’s accusers are White, the story develops more grit from several angles. First, it could awaken interest from the soap opera types who cling to their living room sofas catching up on Natalie Holloway-Nancy-Grace type stories with much intrigue. On the flip side, that type of confirmation could sully Cain’s chances of courting away some of President Obama’s Black voters as Cain himself boasted a few weeks back. There are plenty Black women within that base who somehow regard Black men who are attracted to, date or marry White women as being disrespectful towards Black women. It may confirm suspicions they’ve always had that about Cain. Granted, these women may not have been swing supporters anyway.
The cynics among us are convinced that the accusers must not be Black because had they been POLITICO and other news organizations would not have hesitated outing them by now. They are convinced Black women are not afforded the same level of courtesy when it comes to anonymity. They must also be acting on the perception among some that African American women lack a certain amount of credibility, and at bottom would not elicit the same type of sympathy and empathy as their Caucasian sisters can. And with a key part of the story involving pay-to-shut-up, money grubbing is among the stereotypical adjectives that some people assign to Black women.
Confirmation of Black accusers will spell the death sentence to this story which will then be swept aside by week’s end. It could be one of the chief reasons for Team Cain’s own clumsy response. After all, Clarence Thomas (and most recently Dominique Strauss-Kahn) all escaped scandal fueled by Black women accusers without too much injury. Thomas got his lifetime appointment and Strauss-Kahn’s charges got dropped like a brick.
Cain could get back to wowing the nation and perturbing the D.C. political establishment insiders who can’t figure him out. They’re not all that happy that he’s perched so comfortably atop the polls, with no signs of toppling off soon.