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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers
Published: 24 June 2011

One presidential candidate's perspective on race has ignited commentary and discussion about racial identity and its importance in the 2012 race.

When Bloomberg News interviewed Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, the conservative said he did not like to be labeled as "African-American"—instead, he said he preferred "American."

"I don't like people trying to label me.  African-American is socially acceptable for some people, but I am not some people," Cain said in the interview.

Gerren Gaynor, a journalist with NewsOne.com, agreed with Cain and said most African Americans had no close ties with their African lineage, and are "unidentifiable" to their "mother country."

"African-Americans/Blacks/Negroes have no true sense of identity," Gaynor wrote.  "If you're African-American, you're more than likely far removed from the African continent and culture."

Gaynor said that terms such as "African-American" are attempts to find an identity for a culture that has been "misplaced."

"Cain couldn't be more right.  Identity is quite arbitrary, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with omitting "African" from our nationality," Gaynor stated.

BET commentator Cord Jefferson refuted Cain's statement, calling it "one of the stupidest sentences uttered in the African-American community."

"Believing that it is somehow inaccurate or unpatriotic for a person to call himself an 'African-American' rather than just an 'American' is absurd, and this is a question that needs to be put to rest," Jefferson wrote.

Jefferson said anyone who identifies themselves as "African American" does not automatically reject their American identity.

"We use the term 'African' not because of an allegiance to the continent of Africa, but because many of us—thanks to slavery—can't trace our origins back to any specific nation," he stated.

Cain is a radio talk show host and long-shot candidate as a favorite of the Tea Party movement. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and Purdue University and worked his way up the corporate ladder before becoming president and CEO of Godfather's Pizza.


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