Economist Thomas Sowell made some curious comments in an interview with Fox News' Neil Cavuto. While the two began their dialogue by discussing the NBA lockout and Bryant Gumbel's recent comment likening league Commissioner David Stern to a "plantation overseer," the conversation quickly turned to race as an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign.
When Cavuto pointed out that some African American leaders have said that Herman Cain isn't really one of them, Sowell responded:
“My gosh, he is certainly one of us far more so than Barack Obama. Raised in Hawaii and going to a private school, an expensive private school."
It is the "one of us" portion of this statement that is worth examining. Obama's background, which did, indeed, include private schools and an upbringing in Hawaii, was one of privilege. In his adult life, Herman Cain, too, has seen his fair share of success.
But Sowell's comments cause one to wonder why good schools and an upbringing in Hawaii would disqualify Obama from being considered as black as Cain. What, exactly, is Sowell saying here? Would being a true African American then require that someone live in the lower 48 and attend less prestigious schools?
While Sowell may have had no ill intention in his words, they certainly raise questions about what he believes "one of us" truly means. Now, it is quite possible that his comments were rooted more in his own upbringing and in the high unemployment rate (16 percent for African Americans) and economic depression that, unfortunately, impacts African Americans more profoundly.
If speaking strictly about these characteristics, then certainly Obama's background isn't characteristic of what others in the black community are faced with. Going on to explain his own personal background, Sowell said:
"We didn't have a lot of frills like electricity and central heating and hot running water." [...]
"I was born into a family that didn't have any education beyond elementary school, but they were people who wanted me to have education."
"He's never been a part of the black experience in America. I can talk about that. I can talk about what it really meant to be po' before I was poor. He can't. So what I'm saying is I can talk about every issue two levels deep without a teleprompter."
Watch these comments, below:
Again -- there was likely no ill intention in Sowell's statements, but they certainly deserve analysis.
(H/T: Real Clear Politics)