Friday, October 21, 2011

Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery: Did Time Magazine Copy Chauncey DeVega's Takedown of "Race Minstrel" Herman Cain?

Cain is a clown. You see it in the way he constantly mollifies white audiences with self-effacing, racialized comedy that borders on minstrelsy (referring to himself as “black-walnut ice cream” or suggesting that the Secret Service call him “Cornbread”). You see it in his stunning gaps in knowledge and understanding of foreign policy and domestic affairs. He says if you don’t have a job, don’t blame Wall Street, because it’s your fault, which in a crippling recession with historically high unemployment numbers means he’s either frighteningly blind or offensively ignorant. This is not a man of serious intellect or realistic solutions or admirable character. This is a buffoon.
I curse my semi-anonymity. At times I feel like a professional wrestler or MC who more well known folks copy in order to get over, yet remains unknown except for a small circle of true fans.

Again, I have no choice but to smile with satisfaction because I was way ahead of the curve on Herman Cain's race minstrelesque routine, calling him out almost a year ago, well before others were keen to his gimmick. I took a good amount of heat for being a truth teller. Hell, I was even condemned by a Pulitzer prize winning journalist for daring to state what should have been abundantly clear to any thinking person.

In all, my refined ownage of Herman Cain is copied but never replicated. I do not know if I have a special insight into self-hating negroes and their genus and phylum; perhaps, I just have a pithy way of describing their nonsense and calling attention to what is circulating in the collective political subconscious.

To point: Toure, author and cultural critic, has a piece on Time Magazine's website where he goes hard at Herman Cain. In doing so, he innovates with language, going old school by using a word--unctuous--that I have never heard before (curse me my public school education). What is familiar, eerily so, are the notes that he hits in his essay, Is Herman Cain the Most Unctous Black Man Alive?

Toure calls Cain a clown, a race minstrel, focuses on how he performs a type of degenerative blackness, benefits from the soft bigotry of low expectations, and is the worst embodiment of what Conservatives imagine affirmative action to be as a policy.

Is this just a coincidence? Or is Toure's essay a loving homage to my long running series of critical essays on Herman Cain? I will never know.

As the founder of Herman Cain Studies, I do have some advice for those who are majoring in the subject. Your critiques may have all of the elements that I have modeled: the focus on Cain as a performer; his channeling of minstrelsy as a racist fantasy figure for white conservative's dreams and aspirations; and how he celebrates ignorance as a black buffoon. But, you are missing a few important details.

One, you have to talk about how Herman Cain dances. The dancing is both literal and metaphorical. It is dancing nonetheless. Ultimately, a piece on Herb Cain's race minstrelsy without a reference to either buckdancing, standing on a box and dancing for money, shuffling and cakewalking for the entertainment of white conservatives, or just the general phrase, "shucking and jiving," is incomplete.

Second, there is another element to Herman Cain's performance that has been hiding in plain sight. As of today, no one has hit on it. As the founder of Herman Cain Studies, I am forced to push the field forward by making an appropriate intervention in the near future. And finally, no critique of Herman Cain, written now or ever, will match the beauty of the following paragraph:
In total, CPAC is a carnival and a roadshow for reactionary Conservatives. It is only fitting that in the great tradition of the freak show, the human zoo, the boardwalk, and the great midway world's fairs of the 19th and 20th centuries, there is a Borneo man, a Venus Hottentot or a tribe of cannibals from deepest darkest Africa or Papua New Guinea on display. For CPAC and the White Conservative imagination, Herman Cain and his black and brown kin are that featured attraction.
When Routledge or Norton publishes an annotated volume or short guide to Herman Cain Studies I would like that passage from my essay Black History Month is Herman Cain Playing a Race Minstrel for CPAC, to be the entry under "Chauncey DeVega."

We have gone over these waters many times my friends. Am I being too sensitive and a bit egocentric on these matters? Or are folks taking my playbook and running with it?


Plane Ideas said...


I read Toure's piece as well as Leonard Pitt's views and others and it is clear they have pirated your work!!!

YOU created the entire narrative of Cain that these folks and authors are platforming from...As a matter of fact WARN and our comments have been invoked by to many bloggers to count..

Which is again why it is critical for you to take public ownership of your intellectual property etc... I have traveled this road many times by local pundits and cultural thieves who often steal my word and theme driven creations.

One final note all of these pirates however do not possess nor have the authentic and deep depth that resonates from your work and your personhood...I know when I read a CD authored, phrase or theme of passage it belongs to you..

You are truly an original griot...Keep the words coming now just affixed them with your authentic signature....You have a debt to you and your family and the circle of people in your orbit who spoke, behaved,displayed into your hears and in part made you and your words possible..We are the sum of it all past, present, future..

chaunceydevega said...

@Thrasher. Always supportive. I don't know. Again, what I am saying is not rocket science. But, how it is said by others is what gives me pause.

Anonymous said...

I have followed your articles on Herman Cain for some time and I do agree that their ideas seem to be eerily similar, yet written far less eloquently. Thank you again for your excellent analysis. I regularly read your blog and remain a big fan.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a simple I told you so would've sufficed... I am quite pleased your commentary is making its way into the main stream more and more. It is much needed for these times. Huzzah!