by Yvette Carnell
Generally, I steer clear of rhetorical right wing set-ups such as the one Perry staged against Cain during the Republican debate in Nevada on Tuesday night. But in this case, someone needs to say what Cain, obviously, can’t.
If you weren’t watching, you missed Perry call Cain “brother” twice in an exchange over Cain’s 999 plan. I usually avoid commenting on such perceived slights because intention is nearly impossible to pin down, whereas alternate rationales are easy to cook up.
Case and point, Perry’s spokesman defended his boss by saying of Perry, “he is a friendly fellow. He uses that kind of language. And he views all those folks on stage as colleagues, as fellow Republicans, and he speaks accordingly.” Since intentions are fairly nebulous, and internal, it’s easy for a person whose intentions are being called into to question to just insinuate that the assailer just misunderstood.
But for those of us who are sensitive to race coded language, it seemed that Perry was making a play to Cain’s hood sense. Perry was needling Cain with casual African American dialect, as if to say, “you may be ahead in the polls, but we all know who- and what- you are.” At that moment, Perry was playing to the base of the Republican Party that would never, under any circumstance, vote for Cain.
By the same token, if Cain had been an evangelical, the use of the term “brother” probably would’ve been perceived as endearing. This is because how language is perceived rests largely on how it is used by the community of the person to whom it is directed.
It is sad though because, and correct me if I’m wrong, Cain hasn’t used the term “brother”, or any other Negro euphemism this entire campaign. Yet here he is, former CEO turned presidential candidate, being called “brother” by his haystack Republican opponent.
Maybe, though, more important than what Cain hasn’t said is what he has said. Cain was quick to jump on Perry for the open display of the word Niggerhead at his family’s hunting camp. Maybe this was the perfect opportunity for Perry to inject race into the debate in a way that helped rather than hurt him. In essence, Perry was saying to Cain; if you’re intent on going there, so can I. Bring it.
Your turn, Herman.