By Gautham Nagesh - 10/09/11 01:53 PM EDT
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain argued that racism is not a professional barrier for African-Americans on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.
His answer came in response to a question in which host Candy Crowley suggested that Cain, who grew up poor and black, had been the benefit of some luck and was superimposing his success on his entire race.
Cain acknowledged that there are still elements of racism in American society but argued the best way to help blacks is to enact policies that raise the entire economy, an argument often used by President Obama. Crowley noted Cain might have been poor but came from a loving family and asked what others who are even less fortunate should be entitled to.
“We are entitled to an opportunity to be able to go after our definition of the American dream. You are owed the opportunity for a level playing field,” Cain replied.
When Crowley asked if blacks currently have that level playing field, Cain replied that many of them do and pointed to his experiences as a business owner and as a member of corporate boards, where he said he’s seen many African-Americans move from middle management to the top of their firms.
“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.”
When asked why African-Americans have been hit especially hard from the recession, Cain pointed to a deficit in education levels and the concentration of blacks in cities like Detroit that have been ravaged by the recession. Cain said he would soon unveil an empowerment zone portion of his “9-9-9 plan” designed to address those hard-hit areas.
Cain also refused to wade into the controversy surrounding Pastor Robert Jeffress, who termed Mormonism a cult at the Values Voter Summit on Friday. Cain said he’s “not running for theologian in chief” and said he didn’t think someone’s religion should be a big campaign issue, but rather the values and guiding principles that will inform how a candidate will make decisions.