If Herman Cain is wrong about the plight of America's poor, and what solutions are needed, as some black leaders have said, then why do the numbers suggest otherwise?
Cain, running for the Republican party's presidential nomination, recently slammed protesters of the national Occupy Wall Street movement, calling protesters jealous Americans who play the victim card and want to take somebody else's Cadillac. Two weeks before, Cain suggested that black voters have been brainwashed into thinking they can't support a conservative candidate.
Singer Harry Belafonte called Cain a bad apple for his views on the plight of blacks and America's poor, while Princeton University professor Cornel West said Cain's views reflect a coldness toward poor people.
West said Cain, needs to get off the symbolic crack pipe and acknowledge that the evidence (of racism) is overwhelming.
Cain is fighting back, saying he won't allow those who don't want black people to think for themselves to try and intimidate him into keeping silent. So he keeps talking.
I left the Democratic plantation a long time ago. And all that they try to do when someone like me...the only tactic that they have to try and intimidate me and shut me up is to call me names, and this sort of thing. It just simply won't work, Cain told Fox News.
But Cain has arguably more than rhetoric on his side. Since Barack Obama, a Democrat, became the first-elected black president in America's history, the African American community has continued to suffer mightly -- perhaps the greatest victim collectively of the Great Recession. Despite billions spent by the federal government in the effort to improve economic conditions, the jobs picture has only worsened for blacks.
As the national unemployment rate climbed back above 9 percent last spring, the black unemployment rate grew to 16.1 percent. In September, the unemployment rate for blacks was at 16 percent, down from 16.7 percent in August. And that's only the official number. Many think it's far worse, since large numbers of people have simply given up on finding work, thus, they don't show up in the statistics.
Reasonably, some estimate that more than 20 percent of black males in the U.S. are unemployed.
Like a festering and infected wound that remains untreated, President Obama's support within the black community is threatened by the fact that the people who love him most are suffering unlike anything our nation has seen over the last 50 years, wrote Boyce Watkins, a professor at Syracuse and founder of the Your Black World Coaliton, in May.
Watkins wrote that the jobless rate of African American males would represent a state of emergency to other sects of the populous, but that African American males are not given a license to speak publicly about their concerns.
The mandated political silence within the black community is similar to the 'stop snitching' campaigns that keep police from finding assailants in urban neighborhoods, Watkins wrote. No one wants to snitch on the fact that the Obama Administration has shown little public concern for distorted realities between black and white labor markets, and this is obviously disappointing.
Which brings us back to Herman Cain, and the effort to intimidate him. West, the Princeton professor, singled out Cain during an interview on Fox News on Monday for Cain's remarks that those who don't have jobs and aren't wealthy have only themselves to blame.
Brother Herman Cain, he's Exhibition A of a coldness toward poor people, a callousness toward working people, said West.
Belafonte said on CNN that Cain knows very little about problems facing the black community and America's poor. Belafonte said Cain's personal good fortune doesn't make him the authority on the plight of people of color. Belafonte said that while black conservatives like Condelezza Rice and Colin Powell are heroes for some people they aren't for a lot of us.
Cain is right for fighting back against such comments, and he has the numbers to back himself up. He said his personal story is proof that blacks can succeed. He also said America's current strategy isn't working.
And he's right about that one, too. The black community should know this better than others. Too many are out of work, and at the moment there's little hope on the horizon that's about to change. To be sure, the problem existed before Obama took office, but it hasn't gotten much better under Obama, who was ushered into office under the promise of that very thing -- change.
Cain's voice may not be what many leaders of the black community are used to, but his words may be just the thing they need to hear. Because the current plight of U.S. blacks is one colored by high unemployment. And something needs to be done about it.