Friday, June 24, 2022

Dr. Boyce Watkins; Herman Cain Doesn’t Want to be an African American? That’s Interesting…

June 20, 2011 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

( Republican Presidential Candidate Herman Cain has announced that he doesn’t appreciate the idea of being labeled an “African American.” During an interview with Bloomberg, Cain said that he prefers to be called an “American,” stating that the word “African” on the front of his racial identity limits him and inaccurately describes who he is.

“I don’t like people trying to label me. African-American is socially acceptable for some people, but I am not some people,” Cain said.

Some have agreed with Cain, stating that there is little reason for most black  people to feel any connection to the continent of Africa.  Gerren Gaynor, a writer for, is one of those who at least partially supported Cain’s remarks.

African-Americans/Blacks/Negroes have no true sense of identity,” Gaynor wrote. “If you’re African-American, you’re more than likely far removed from the African continent and culture.”

“Cain couldn’t be more right. Identity is quite arbitrary, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with omitting “African” from our nationality,” Gaynor stated.

Cord Jefferson, an analyst with BET, took issue with Cain’s remarks, referring to his remarks as simply “dumb.”

“Believing that it is somehow inaccurate or unpatriotic for a person to call himself an ‘African-American’ rather than just an ‘American’ is absurd, and this is a question that needs to be put to rest,” Jefferson wrote.

Herman Cain’s remarks about the pitfalls of being called an “African American” remind us of the kind of assimilation expected by those who somehow feel that blackness is a liability.  The truth is that our dark skin is reflective of our African roots, and not knowing anything about Africa is no excuse to deny ourselves access to thousands of years of storied and valuable culture.  White Supremacy 101 tells us that we can be successful in spite of being black, rather than finding success because we are black.

For some reason, Cain seems to think that by connecting himself with those who enslaved his forefathers, he is somehow attached to the heritage of his blue eyed brothers and sisters.  But the reality is that when he denies his genealogical roots, he is disrespecting those who carried the blood that runs through his veins.   Personally, I’d be ashamed to have a great grandchild who decided to negate my connection to him simply because he knows nothing of his history.  Instead, I would expect him to do the research necessary to learn where he comes from, rather than pretending that he came from someplace else.

When I wrote a column on Your Black World regarding how Herman Cain’s politics might be identifiable to many African Americans who falsely believe that they are liberal, his supporters seemed to think (as communicated in emails I received from one of his representatives) that I was open to the idea of endorsing him.    

Let’s be clear:  I don’t endorse Herman Cain and I think he’s dangerous for America.  There is nothing wrong with being an African American, and by resorting to such shenanigans to appease his Tea Party base, Cain continues to reduce himself to a political cartoon character.  He should be smarter than that and run his campaign with a bit more dignity – there is little pride in pretending to be someone else.

Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. For more information, please visit


16 Responses to “Dr. Boyce Watkins; Herman Cain Doesn’t Want to be an African American? That’s Interesting…”
  1. Georgia says:

    A Ragsdale – WHO could argue that DURING the days of slavery, Blacks were treated inhumanely? Today, there would be only a handful of complete idiots who would disagree. My point being, just HOW LONG does one get to blame societial ills on slavery? If we use your logic of Black slavery lasting 200 +/- years, does that mean that Blacks only have 50 or so more years to use that argument? Because, by then, slavery will have been abolished for 200 +/- years.
    Do we blame it on racism that still exists today? If we use that measuring stick, I, as a “White” with apparent Black traits, can claim I am a victim. My husband is a “white-looking” man of Hispanic heritage with a Hispanic sounding last name. He has 2 master’s degrees and a PhD. However, on job applications and the like, he is certain to check the Hispanic box under “race” to even be considered for jobs and promotions. Yes, he uses affirmative action to his advantage. (Personally, I dont agree – but I like to eat!) FACT: Racism exists within ALL races. I can’t understand how ANY group of people can claim to want equality – across the board, IN ALL forms – but aren’t willing to give up whatever advantage sets them apart. ie: government assistance, labels, affirmative action, special interest groups, etc.

    How do you explain the recent period of time when the strong, 2 parent Black family was the social norm within the Black community? (Prior to the 60’s) What happened?

    Having both Black heritage and Indian heritage, I can easily compare the breakdown of the Black society, particularily in urban areas, to the breakdown of the Indian society living on reservations. The common denominator being government dependancy. In both cases, the government, the people, whomever, in history, have abused these 2 groups and now are “apologizing” in the form of handouts and freebies. Where/what are the incentives to change things? Before long, it becomes “the norm”. (Yes,an overly simplistic view and yes, more than just Blacks and Indians are affected.)

    I realize the argument is extremely complex and could never be covered in a few posts to a blog forum and I appreciate the time you’ve taken to reply. However, back to the main point of the entire blog post: “We Need To Go From An Entitlement Society To An Empowerment Society” – Herman Cain

  2. Errick Jones says:

    I just returned to the U.S. after 15 years living and working in Ghana, West Africa. Most continental Africans would likely agree with Mr. Cain concerning his being an American. But that’s about as far as it goes. There they would also readily agree that his ethnicity or ancestral root is clearly African although not very precise as say, Ewe, Fanti, or Ashanti. Nevertheless, try as he may, he can never get away from his African root. He need only look in the mirror to be reminded.

    That being said, I can understand Mr. Cain wanting to be viewed as simply an American. It has broader political appeal and it’s less complicated. Personally, I’m more bothered by some of his other statements that suggest a level of intolerance that would be very dangerous for this country.

  3. Jonathan says:

    I’m a white conservative and I support Herman Cain’s presidential bid. This article, in my opinion, twists Mr. Cain’s words. Herman never said he doesn’t want to BE and African American, as the title insinuates; but rather he said he prefers not to BE CALLED African American because he feels no connection to the African peoples and culture. History is important, yes, because it has brought us to where we are, but it doesn’t make us who we are. My own father is an immigrant from the Netherlands. I don’t go around calling myself a Dutch American. I’m simply American… or a white American, if you feel the need to distinguish ethnicity.

    Also, I disagree with the following comment you made… “White Supremacy 101 tells us that we can be successful in spite of being black, rather than finding success because we are black.”
    Now I’ve lived in South Carolina for the past seven years of my life, and I’ve come in contact with a few racist white people who would echo the first part of that statement (“You can be successful in spite of being black.”), and I’ve come in contact with a multitude of black people who would cling to the last part of that statement (“You can be successful because you’re black.”)

    What Mr. Cain is trying to say is that neither of those viewpoints is correct. He’s saying, “You can be successful because you’re an American.”

  4. Georgia says:

    **Correction – In my above post, I should have said that there are no records of my great grandmother’s ancestors – NOT decendants. In my defense, it was early and before coffee.

  5. A Ragsdale says:

    Just for you Georgia –

    Please Read

    Ensuring Inequality
    The Structural Transformation of the African-American Family
    By Donna L. Franklin

    DuBois also noted that slavery had a crippling effect on the slave father, who lacked the authority to govern or protect his family. In DuBois’s view, “his wife could be made his master’s concubine, his daughter could be outraged, his son whipped, or he himself sold away without being able to protest or lift a preventing finger.” He asserted that the position of the mother was also undermined. Whether field hand or house servant, she could spend little or no time in her own home, so “her children had little care or attention.” According to DuBois, she was “often the concubine of the master or his sons,” and she could be separated from her family at any time by the “master’s command or by his death or debts.”

    Remember that slavery lasted for over 200 years and affected many generations. The head of the family was made to feel less than, a man.

  6. Incognegro says:

    There is problem with the racialism (I won’t say racism) expressed by Dr. Boyce Watkins. Rather than being your own man or your own woman, you are connecting your self worth with the accomplishments of other black Africans, instead of developing yourself and actually contributing to the society you live in.

  7. Marcus T. says:

    “For some reason, Cain seems to think that by connecting himself with those who enslaved his forefathers, he is somehow attached to the heritage of his blue eyed brothers and sisters.”

    I’m sorry but it is not any white persons fault that their ancestors enslaved us, for all we know their ancestors could have been abolitionists or simple migrants who had nothing to do with slavery. Even if their ancestors did own slaves, it’s not their fault just as it is not our fault that our ancestors were sold into slavery.

    I don’t agree with Mr. Cain on any issues, I am a die hard democrat living in Jessie Juniors district but making bigoted comments about white people only hurts our own cause for continued freedom and equality.

  8. Georgia says:

    A Ragsdale – Having a Black great grandmother and a mother who is a genealogist, I can somewhat understand how you feel about not knowing where you came from. (Let me reiterate “somewhat” because there are many lines that have been traced back to Europe. So,there a feeling of satisfaction in that.) Having said that, I do know A LOT about my history and I know that my family came from dirt poor sharecropping roots. (My ancestors fought in the Civil war because they were duped by claims that they would be able to “see the country.. leave the farm”. They had NO concept of slavery!) Another great grandmother was 100% Cherokee Indian – Again, there are no records of her descendants. If I used your logic, I could claim twice the victimology having decended from a slave AND a Cherokee – whose people were also treated horribly!

    Your post describes EXACTLY what Herman Cain refuses to do/be. He refuses to be a victim. He refuses to let what others did to his ancestors define who is today.

    On another note, I would love if you took a moment to explain exactly how slavery has broken down the American Black family. There was a time in not so distant American history that the Black family was envied for it’s strength and resolve. I think it would serve you well to be objective and look at the liberal governmental policies that catered to the “victim” mentality that is the TRUE cause of the Black family breakdown.

    P.S. “Uncle Tom” was a martyr – not a sell out. By using this analogy, you are playing exactly into the hands of the racist Whites who mocked the character of Uncle Tom.

  9. Nicholas says:

    Nationality is the quality of belonging to a particular nation. Africa is not a nation as America is not a nation. Herman has the right to distant himself from his African heritage, it’s not illegal. Herman is not the first black man to disown his people,think Clearance Thomas as the most prominent and recent black man to disown his people in order to assimilate with the ruleing class. He is being used. NO PRIDE NO SHAME!

  10. A Ragsdale says:

    There are still issues that arise from the history of this country. Even though current citizens of this country do not own slaves, does not mean that they did not benefit from the sweat of slaves. To act as if this cruel act of violence does not affect the current state of the black population is absurd. The breakdown of the Black family is the saddest thing that slavery has done. The battle of complexion, cause “White is Right” is an ongoing battle. Even though you may not feel responsible for the cultural difference between blacks and whites, does not mean that we are indifferent or that it does not exist.

    Just as there were black slave owners, today there are still those who do not mind the “Uncle Tom” behaviour. America has not made up for the generations of kidnapping and toture inflicted on my ancestors. The worst thing I have felt over slavery is the fact that I don’t know where I came from. Completing a family tree is nearly impossible. The current state of Black Youth is not a separate issue. It is because of the breakdown of the Black Family.

  11. Frank says:

    As a conservative member liberal of a predominantly liberal minority, this article disgusts me. Liberals don’t own blacks; and you certainly don’t own other blacks. Who cares if Cain chooses to identify as an American first?

  12. CB24 says:

    You’re showing bigotry in this article. There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your roots, but you seem to be suggesting that Cain should see his roots as a reason to separate himself from whites.

    You also said that he aligns himself with those who enslaved his forefathers, but no one alive today has ever owned a slave, nor have they likely likely ever known anyone who ever owned one.

    You also express a desire to see people succeed because they are black, and you seem upset at people who think otherwise. But tell me, why should skin color have any influence whatsoever on one’s success? To believe that you are more special, or that you deserve more, simply because of your skin color…is that not textbook racism?

    It goes both ways, pal. No one should be discriminated against because of their color, but neither should anyone receive special treatment because of it.

    Cain doesn’t want to be labeled. Neither do I, nor do many Americans. And think about the term “African-American.” You’re not from Africa. Neither is Cain. Usually people will say, “but that’s where our ancestry hails from,” but if you submit to the Theory of Evolution (which most Liberals do), then everyone’s ancestry hails from Africa.

  13. FairTaxNow says:

    This man truely scares liberals to death. It is so interestting to see liberals who were quick to call anyone a racist that spoke ill of Obama have no problem trashing a black conservative, remember Clarence Thomas. If Mr Cain peels off even 20% of the 24% estimated conservative black population he wins and puts an end to this reign of socialist terror.

  14. Georgia says:

    I’m not sure why we all aren’t just “American”. Sure, there are adjectives that we all use to describe ourselves, but I don’t refer to myself as a European/Native/African-American. With my mother being a professional genealogist, I am well aware of my history and my roots and I am extremely proud of those that came before me. They each endured their own struggles, but I don’t feel the need to let each label define the individual that I am today.

  15. Thomas says:

    I find it odd that you refer to “For some reason, Cain seems to think that by connecting himself with those who enslaved his forefathers” as if the white people today enslaved his forefathers. Let me be clear, slavery was and is not humane, but you would be hard pressed to find white people in the United States of today that have slaves or were alive during the time it was prevalent in this country. Maybe white people should call themselves European-Americans. Or maybe you should just read about the fact that the various peoples of European decent abandoned their hyphenated names several generations ago. African-Americans should do the same! Herman Cain 2012 would be fine with me…

  16. al lewis says:

    Again you liberal bashing writers don’t get it you just called Herman Cain dumb and you think that because some supposed Intellectual elite did it it is ok. Well let me tell you it is not ok and you will make people like him more so thats ok bash away lets see where it gets you. The people want real change not socialist change get it.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!