It Took Too Long To Get A Herman Cain

CHURCHVILLE, VA–Black conservative Lloyd Marcus wrote recently that, when he thinks of Herman Cain, he envisions him fleeing a white slave owner, backed by black overseers, and a pack of howling dogs–all trying to bring Herman down. (“Herman Cain: runaway slave,”; October 20.)

I see a far different vision: I see a strong black family with a hard-working chauffeur father who also worked a night job, and an equally strong mother, the pair of whom collaborated in pulling their son up toward his fullest potential in a free society. What grieves me most deeply is that it’s taking so long for the promise of the black family in America to be fulfilled.

I blame the welfare system that began many decades ago for shattering the strong black families that existed at the end of the Depression. The free black families had built strong communities based on pride in even the low-level work they were allowed to do, and the collective strength of their close-knit society.

In the 60’s, rather than encourage blacks to become newly-eligible union plumbers or members of the United Auto Workers, we put them on welfare. We wanted to “help” the poor blacks without letting them get the “good” jobs, so we started writing checks. Then the numbers on the checks started to reach intimidating totals, as more and more of the families succumbed to the lure of the free money and the degradation that accompanies it.

Then we decided that any black family that had a father couldn’t get the welfare. The “man in the house” rule was adopted–and the loud voice of the free money persuaded large numbers of black mothers to reject the stable two-parent family model. This has–correctly–been the lament of Bill Cosby for decades, and it has caused his alienation from his own community.

In 1996, under Clinton and Newt Gingrich the Welfare Reform Act made a dramatic start in weaning the people from welfare and giving them a change to rise from poverty. Before the reform only 10 percent of the recipients were working. That number had risen to 32 percent by 2009. But we still have a long way to go to break the chain of dependency.

Kids are being raised by single women and grandmothers who lack the parenting power of a father/mother pair. They certainly lack the physical strength to cope with big and aggressive teen boys who lack any respect for law or morals. This is the secret that the black activist “leaders’ dare not voice to their own people. Instead they blame the number of black kids in prison on “racial bias,” rather than demonstrated behavior.

Too often kids who make good grades and have dreams of a productive future are ridiculed for “acting white.” And this has been repeatedly thrown at Herman Cain
as he climbs the power ladder. I heard a black commentator on Fox loudly denouncing him as an “Oreo.”

How much sooner would a Herman Cain have come onto our biggest stage if the black families had not been shattered by the welfare checks? How many promising black kids would have emerged how many years sooner if they had been striving to rise? How much more approving support would the black community have offered to the kids who were succeeding in American society?

Thank God for Herman Cain.

Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., is an environmental economist. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years. Readers may write to him at PO Box 202 Churchville, VA 2442; email to [email protected] or visit us at

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