“If you don’t have a job and if you’re not rich blame yourself.” Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain stated these words in a recent interview discussing the Occupy Wall Street protests. He also goes on to state that people should not be jealous of others’ success. According the Cain, if you didn’t succeed in life its all your fault. I understand that Cain is trying to get people to be more accountable for their own actions. There is some truth to his statement. At times we blame others for our own misfortunes instead of taking into account our own mistakes. However, when discussing the big banks of Wall Street and how common people have suffered in the recession, it is unfair to dismiss their strife as “jealousy”. What about the oppression, elitism, and discrimination that has plagued America for centuries? These definitely affect the socio-economic statuses of many Americans, especially African Americans.

One documentary in particular, unknowingly highlights this. Born Rich is a documentary that has interviews with the people that we would call the 1% (the wealthiest people in the world). Throughout the course of the interviews, it’s easy to see that many of the rich families became wealthy during time periods that African descendants were forced to work as slaves, sharecroppers and low-wage workers. While the children of the wealthy families inherited the wealth (centuries later) without having worked for it at all; the children of the poor families inherited the poverty at no fault of their own. Its not a simple matter of who works harder. Many times its a matter of who was born into the “right” family, race, gender and economic class. Thus the effects of inequalities are passed on to new generations. Its kind of like a cycle. These type of cycles can be ended but it takes a very very long time. This is a fact of society that can not be ignored or disregarded.

Though we are born with various inequalities, the goal is to make society better for the whole, not “privileged” parts. Because of the historical privileges allotted to wealthy corporations and banks, many people are feeling disheartened as they struggle to pay their mortgages, find a job and put food on the table. I think this is the crust of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It is not about being “jealous” or “envious” it is about desiring a better life and pressuring the government to stop catering to certain privileges that are costing common citizens hundreds of millions of dollars. To a degree, I do understand Cain’s sentiment. Hard work should be valued and does help with achieving success. However, preexisting inequalities are highly relevant and should be taken seriously.


Jessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of Black Bloggers Connect. Mitchell specializes in multicultural outreach and communications. She also writes on her personal blog at OurLegaci.com. To reach JAM email her at info@OurLegaci.com.


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See The Herman Cain Interview

Watch the Born Rich Documentary Here

15 thoughts on “Blame Yourself

  1. Herman Cain is a class A jackass. Just bc he has it good doesn’t mean that everyone else is lazy. He really has a altered view of reality.

  2. This is Herman Cain appealing to his base…nothing more, nothing less. I don’t think that African Americans should get all tied up with Cain’s comments. They are meant to be controversial and they are meant to get attention. Herman Cain will never get the Republican ticket, and I think that he knows that, but for what it’s worth,. he’s going to get as much from this campaign as he can, whether that is gaining some position within the Republican party or just getting his name out there for other opportunities. He is brilliant, and I think that he will succeed in “whatever” he is trying to achieve….but it won’t be the Presidency.

  3. I personally don’t know how I feel about Cain. His remarks that if you aren’t rich it’s your own fault and his seeming want to illuminate all responsibility from those with money is sickening.

  4. I really liked this article and I agree that there are historical factors that play a part in achieving wealth in this country. Politics in general has not helped to make the playing field equal and sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you work at making a better life for yourself. You just have to keep clawing and scratching sometimes to make thing better for yourself. Great read!

  5. @Rita, I agree this may be a part of a publicity ploy. @Nate, this is definitely a problem when some refuse to acknowledge the historical economic divisions that we have in this country and the world. Thanks to both of you for reading my article! @Larry, glad you enjoyed the read.

  6. I agree with the writer that there is some truth in what Cain has stated. Most of us agree that with the financial troubles that we are currently in, that it benefits certain types of businesses and individuals. To be completly honest with myself, I have to ask what are we doing as a people to change our situation? When I go to my children’s PTA I see very little parental involvement. When I look at my neighborhood, (I live in a middle-class neighborhood in southwest Atlanta) I see very little parental involvement with the children. How are we to change our plight if we do not get involved with the “investment” that GOD gave us? I am a small business owner (after I was let go from at&t after almost 11 years)that consults with businesses about all things telecom and I have a non-profit that mentors to our yourh in this area. I for one am not waiting for the system to change as I have to change it myself, one customer and one yourh at a time. We need to stop worrying what politicians are saying, as we know that they are going to say what is needed to get elected. What concerns me more than national politicians are our local politicians. We as a people need to start our own revolution and call it “occupy our schools and get the children back on track”. Education can bring economic success in neighborhoods. Start supporting the black owned businesses within our community so that they can hire individuals. Attend your child’s PTA, get involved in what is important, then we should see less black on black crime on tv, higher graduation rates and historical numbers of our black youth in college and in two parent homes. We need to stand up and be fathers and mothers to our sons and daughters. This way there is no “ammumition” to give to the media and hence the discussion from the politicians will be different. STAND UP!!

  7. The blog link above does a good job of underscoring the issue the economic condition of African Americans. It’s a bit dubious that Herman Cain’s comment was the catalyst for the posting. Mr. Cain has an appropriate perspective that can’t be unpacked in the confines of commercial television. A part of the economic problems we are now facing is because of the choices individuals make, have made and are making.

    The blog link does offer a few truths from the history of African Americans in this country. And it does cast light on how some elites have made their fortunes that exist from generation to generation. But in the finite space of a blog, what didn’t come to light was the choices that we all make, regardless of race. Some elites do the right things with their money, regardless of the inherited source. Some have even divested themselves of their family fortunes after they found that their inheritance came on the backs of slaves.

    The blog link doesn’t address what should be talked about in the public square; African Americans have been successful under the most adverse conditions in this country because of the choices they made and their commitment to sacrifice now to get material wealth and goods later. American American progress in this country was built on faith and walking out their faith in God in their everyday lives. Once we allowed other things to grab our attention in the 60s and 70s we saw a gradual decrease in overall African American wealth in this country.

    I know many will not agree with my views or my worldview, but it’s there for consideration along with others in the marketplace of ideas. Mr. Cain’s comment has merit and we shouldn’t be so dismissive of his humanity and his perspective. The blog raise very important issues that must be factored into a plan for economic recovery that African Americans themselves can employ in our spheres of influence, but there are other issues to consider in concert with these.

    Don’t let either side put horns and a pitchfork on the other.

  8. ..or you could blame the multinational corporate “job creators” who refuse to create jobs in America while they sit on $2.1 trillion in cash and pay almost nothing in taxes, complaining about “uncertainty”.

    And I’m sure there are lots of former Godfather’s Pizza employees who feel justified in blaming Herman Cain for the job loss they suffered when his company went bankrupt…

  9. Herman Cain is like a broken clock, it’s right twice a day. His stands for nothing, he was appealing to the rich and racist White vote he believes will get him elected. When discussing this issue one needs to mention the societal inequities, the institutionalized racism, etc. To state Black people make bad choices therefore they are responsible for their condition without without mentioning the obstacles, some of which I touched on is disingenuous and misses the mark. You’re either on one side or the other, the only thing in the middle of the road are yellow lines and road kill.

  10. For sure Jessica…I think we need a movement that address concerns of ours! I’d for one like to hear someone speak about the unfairness of sentencing, yet no one addresses this as an issue, not the tea party, not the OWS, not any of these groups. Yet in reality we are still being locked up at rates far higher than any other group in this country…We need to do something to make our communities seem more like communities versus some type of war zone/occupation areas.

  11. I’ll post my Tupac quote here as well:

    “You have to be logical. You know? If I know that in this hotel room they have food every day, and I’m knocking on the door every day to eat, and they open the door, let me see the party, let me see them throwing salami all over, I mean, just throwing food around, but they’re telling me there’s no food.
    Every day, I’m standing outside trying to sing my way in:
    We are hungry, please let us in We are hungry, please let us in
    After about a week that song is gonna change to: We hungry, we need some food
    After two, three weeks, it’s like: Give me the food Or I’m breaking down the door
    After a year you’re just like: I’m picking the lock Coming through the door blasting
    It’s like, you hungry, you reached your level. We asked ten years ago. We was asking with the Panthers. We was asking with them, the Civil Rights Movement. We was asking. Those people that asked are dead and in jail. So now what do you think we’re gonna do? Ask?”

  12. In addition to pandering for a particular vote, I believe it is part of a publicity ploy as well. It is no secret that anyone can achieve if they work hard enough. That is not only fact, it is old news. However, despite public opinion, the individual still determines the meaning of rich. I spent 11 years working as a waitress and I found out that attitudes about prosperity are quite different on many levels in every race. Mr. Cain is a very intelligent individual with a blanket view of prosperity and how to achieve it. His father worked 3 jobs to make ends meet for his family. That is quite admirable. I am sure anyone would commend him for that, but his perception of prosperity and what makes one rich is out of focus. At this point the “occupants” of Wall Street would feel that prosperity is not worrying about your needs on a base level so that they have the freedom to move to the next level. No one is blaming government, the protests are a way of telling government to do its part and work as the fully functioning body they clam to be. Folks are tired of the BS currently delivered by large banks and government partisanship. Herman Cain is intelligent, but not progressive. He still represents old mindsets and ideas about achievement. Your right Jessica there was a lot going on for African- Americans when the ancestors of the children in the documentary were amassing their fortunes. Surely without so many obstacles the 3 jobs worked by Herman’s father would have developed into so much more. To the Herman Cain’s I say congratulations on your achievements. Good for you, but don’t allow your intelligence to confuse you into believing your back is fully covered. To the Wall Street occupants I say keep up the fight everyone is tired of the BS…Some of us are with you when your right.

  13. Yes, we all need to take responsibility. We can – and will – improve our results by improving our thoughts, feelings and emotions.

    But who told the Europeans to come to Africa and start enslaving people and stealing our wealth? Sorry, I just had to get that in.

    Plus, who told the bankers to go to the poorest neighbourhoods and DELIBERATELY, INTENTIONALLY sell people products they KNEW they could not afford? Come on, people, get real.


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