Emmett Till to Herman Cain: Strange Progress?

In August, 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till, and African-American, was killed for reportedly flirting with a white woman. He was beaten, his eyes cut out of his head, and his lifeless body was dumped in a river. The men who murdered the young boy were acquitted, but later publicly admitted to the lynching under the protection of double jeopardy.

Today, Herman Cain still enjoys frontrunner status in the GOP presidential race after several women came forward with allegations of aggressive sexual harassment. Sharon Bialek tells of an evening in Cain’s car when he reached under her dress, then tried to force her head toward his crotch. When she resisted, Bialek says Cain responded with, “You do want a job, don’t you?”

Some backers of Herman Cain have made the curious claim that the candidate’s ability to show well in the GOP race, despite his baggage, is a sign of progress in United states race relations. But all political spin aside, this sort of statement should prompt more than passive dismissal; it should spark outrage.

In fact, this doesn’t speak to racial progress in the least. Numerous prominent black leaders point to statements made by Cain and his camp about the poor, how they must want to be poor, and how if any of us isn’t rich, it’s our own fault. He also has claimed that any black voters supporting a democratic candidate have been “brainwashed.” How, my any measure, can this be considered progress?

And this doesn’t even begin to address the matter of women’s rights and the sway they hold in the public and political forum. Cain himself referred to US Rep. Nancy Pelosi, minority leader in the House of Representatives as “Princess Nancy” during a GOP candidate debate. On a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night talk show, the host Jokingly asked Cain if he had considered hiring feminist advocate lawyer Gloria Allred to help him out with his legal problems.

“You almost made me say something that my handlers say you should not say,” replied Cain. “Let me put it to you this way; I can’t think of anything that I would hire her to do, okay? I can’t think of a thing.”

Much of Cain’s base lies in the Tea Party movement, as evidenced by the recent public endorsement he received from the ultra-conservative Koch Brothers, who were largely responsible for setting the Tea Party campaign in motion. And though some fanatical supporters may try to frame his popularity as some kind of warped evolution in civil rights, their blind devotion will have quite the opposite effect in the sphere of public opinion.

To utter Harman Cain’s name in the same sentence with Emmett Till’s is to dishonor both his life and the movement it sparked on behalf of civil rights. A true leader would neither behave nor speak as Cain has, and true advocates for American populism would shudder at the prospect of supporting such a divisive and misogynist figure.

We all deserve much better.

About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • http://twitter.com/mtndew2781 Christopher Anderson

    Your article is a joke. Unethical, irresponsible journalism at best. The charges against Cain are so baseless, and so beyond the scope of credibility. Where is 1 shred of proof against him? Why is it the ONLY allegations come out of a very tiny window when he was at the NRA? No time before or since has anyone said anything but positive about the man? These are just greedy women looking for a payout, and the media trying to crown their golden boy Romney. You should be ashamed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/christianpiatt Christian Piatt

      your aggressive response does not help his case.

    • Danallison34

      Christopher, you really are missing the whole point. Whether the accusations are themselves true or not is irrelevant. Here’s what is relevant.
      1) Either the accusations are true, or Cain authorized paying tens of thousands of dollars to people who are liars. Either option is unacceptable in terms of the man’s character. If the women are lying, you don’t pay them; you defend your honor and your reputation. Nobody needs a president whose priority is expediency.
      2) Cain is simply too stupid to be president. He thought the issue would never come up? He thinks he can just stonewall it and it will go away? That’s dumb — too dumb for the White House.
      3) He’s a whining cry-baby. No one owes him an apology! This is the big leagues and the game is hardball. He needs to be a man, stop acting like he’s a victim and boo-hoo we should all sympathize with him. What if Putin insults him! Or Sarkozy! Is he gonna cry to momma then?
      He’s a clown and an embarrassment to anyone with character or intelligence. Whether the charges are true or not.

      • James2017

        You make it seem as if severance pay is a lot of money. 40k is nothing if they had to go to court they may of had to pay that just in legal fees so it was smart business. Also he was not the one to pay the severance check or sign it. It was signed after he left the association by the new CEO. So get your facts straight first. I don’t like he was crying however how would you feel if someone lied on you at your job that stopped you from getting a promotion. I’m sure you wouldn’t just sit there and say nothing!

  • Earle_Fisher

    Great work. I think you erred at the end though lol. Cain IS a leader, flaws and all. He is one of the leaders of a conservative regressive movement, probing that even those in black skin can be anti-civil rights. He projects the thoughts of a ventriloquist (right wing racists, misogynistic, bourgeois capitalists that are committed to changing the package (black skin) w/o changing the product (imperial oppression of the poor and marginalized)


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