The dust up between Princeton professor Cornel West and Herman Cain is interesting from several aspects. Recall that West said that Cain was smoking a "symbolic crack pipe" by insisting that racism was no longer debilitating to blacks in America. Cain said that racism is overcome by hard work and diligence. Cain said to CNN's Cathy Crowley, “I have seen blacks in middle management move up to top management in some of the biggest corporations in America,” the candidate explained. “They weren’t held back because of racism. No, people sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve.” West was then asked for his opinion and he said something to think that racism no longer held back people of color. “Well, black people have been working hard for decades. I think he needs to get off the symbolic crack pipe and acknowledge that the evidence is overwhelming. And I think he also knows that if brother Anthony Davis — a brother who was just put to death — were a white Wall Street banker brother, that the response in the nation would have been very different as opposed to a poor black brother. And that’s just one small example — one very small example of racism still at work holding people back.” Huh? What does the execution of Davis have to do with "racism holding people back"? Also West seems to have forgotten that conservative Georgia ex-congressman Bob Barr supported staying the execution of Davis. Nevertheless it is instructive to compare West and Cain and make your own decision about who is correct. West was the son of a Department of Defense contractor and a teacher. Cain's mother was a domestic and father a chauffeur, barber and janitor. West grew up in Sacramento and was educated at Harvard and Princeton. Cain grew up in segregated Atlanta (as did I with separate water fountains, restrooms and schools) and was educated at a black college - Morehouse and has a masters' degree from my brother's alma mater - Purdue. West is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, a Marxist, pro-Palestinian with his entire career in academia. Cain's business career is well documented. So here we have one individual growing up in the racist segregated south overcoming odds and becoming a successful businessman who understands markets and the power of capitalism saying from experience that racism is being used as an excuse by people like West. On the other hand we have someone who was by comparison a child of privilege, who goes to "elite" schools and becomes a dedicated socialist who opines on a system of which he is ignorant and only knows as a outside observer. Who would you believe?
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com