The Ed Show | October 10, 2011
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW . In my playbook tonight, after claiming African-American voters have been brainwashed by Democrats , Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain is now making another big new assertion on race.
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way.
SCHULTZ: Well, pretty bold statement considering the unemployment rate in the African-American community in this country is at 16 percent, almost twice the national average. Cain blames a gap in education and geographic conditions for the discrepancy, and says those less fortunate are still entitled to an opportunity to achieve the American dream .
CAIN: Everybody's definition of the American dream is different. You are owed the opportunity for a level playing field .
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And do blacks have a level playing field right now with whites?
CAIN: Many of them do. Many of them do have a level playing field . I absolutely believe that.
SCHULTZ: Cain cited his own experiences in corporate America to back up his claims. As for those who find themselves at an economic disadvantage, well, Herman Cain believes they only have themselves to blame.
CAIN: People sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as an excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve.
SCHULTZ: Joining me now is MSNBC political analyst, professor at Georgetown University and author of the book " Can You Hear Me Now ," Michael Eric Dyson . Michael , great to have you with us tonight. I appreciate your time.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Great to be here.
SCHULTZ: I have never heard a candidate talk about race like this. What do you make of these comments?
DYSON: Well, he's clearly pandering to his base. He doesn't want to offend Republicans . I'd rather have a Republican like Colin Powell , who took his fellow white Republicans to task about their being recipients of affirmative action in a very bold and strategic way. I'd rather Republicans acknowledge that there are structural impediments and inequalities that persist. We talk about health care disparity. We talk about economic inequality . We speak about the fact that the wages of black people fell post-recession by -- and the median income by 9.2 percent. The unemployment rate is 16.7 percent. One out of two black men in New York cannot get a job right now. And the disproportionate concentration of African-American people in the prison system. So we can go on and on and talk about the persistence of both structural inequities, as well as the persistence of certain forms of cultural bigotry that prevent the flourishing of African-American people, and that keep them down. So there's no question that he's illusory. He's in a land of delusion.
SCHULTZ: Professor, is Herman Cain doing his race a disservice by saying that there's a level played field, after what you just pointed out, how many inequities there -- and how many problems there are in America right now for minorities?
DYSON: Well, not only is he doing his race a disservice. He's doing the truth a disservice, Ed. The tragedy is that Herman Cain is using the truth as a convenient piece of fodder for the great machinery of self- promotion. I think that's pretty tragic. Look, I have no gripe with him trying to make an argument for his place within the Republican fold. But to argue that there's a playing field that's level for African-American people, when it's so manifestly clear that there is inequity, that there is inequality, that there is social injustice, that there is the persistence of obstacles and barriers that prevent people from even getting skills that would allow them to compete in this economy.
So when you put that stuff on the table, it's really tremendously difficult to acknowledge that he's telling the truth. On the other hand , he'd do well to read Amanti Perry 's book -- she's a professor at Princeton University -- "More Terrible and More Beautiful," where she talks about post-intentional racism. It's not something people sit around and intend to do. But nonetheless, there are severe and deleterious consequences to how we organize society. So whether it's intentional or not, the persistence of inequity certainly has a negative effect on African-American people. How can Herman Cain look at any of the indices of contemporary African- American life and deny that? It's way beyond me.
SCHULTZ: Is he missing an opportunity, you know, when it comes to addressing race in a meaningful way?
SCHULTZ: You think about white Republicans out there who don't like black folks. It's almost as if this guy is trying to warm up to them and tell them what they want to hear. Your thoughts?
DYSON: At the expense of his own dignity. If the price of admission is the denial of your body or your brain or your blood, then what you're doing is sacrificing the history and tradition that produced who you are for the sake of getting into a field that really doesn't take you seriously. Yes, he's missing a great opportunity to inform his fellow Republicans about some of these inequities and to challenge them, to address them, and therefore pull more African-American and Latino and other poor and working class people into the fold. If it looked like the Republicans were willing to acknowledge some of the persistent obstacles that prevail, then, it seems to me, more people of color might be willing to give them a look. Short of that, what he does is reinforce certain stereotypes and certain kind of narrow thinking.
SCHULTZ: MSNBC political analyst, professor Michael Eric Dyson , always a pleasure. Great to have you on the program tonight. Thanks so much. Coming up, some Democrats are turning their backs on job creation in this country. I'll try to talk them off the cliff here and make sense out of it next. Stay with us.