(CNN) - Presidential candidate Herman Cain said Sunday that he didn’t believe racism was a major factor holding minorities back in America, asserting instead that African Americans had a level playing field on which to advance economically.
“I don't believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way,” Cain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Are there some elements of racism? Yes. It gets back to if we don't grow this economy, that is a ripple effect for every economic level, and because blacks are more disproportionately unemployed, they get hit the worst when economic policies don't work. That's where it starts.”
Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, said educational disparity and geographical separation were to blame for high unemployment rates among African Americans. Jobs numbers released Friday showed the unemployment rate among African Americans standing at 16.0%, while the total national unemployment rate remained at 9.1%.
“The gap is due to a number of factors,” Cain said. “One is a differential in education. Two is a concentration of a lot of blacks in certain areas like the city of Detroit, where the unemployment rate there is 14% versus the 9.1% we have nationally. So you have a city like Detroit where they lost 25% of their population, economically they’ve done nothing but go down, down, down.”
When asked by CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley if he thought African Americans had a level playing field, Cain said he thought most of them did, using his own experience in corporations as an example.
“Many of them do have a level playing field,” Cain said. “I absolutely believe that. Not only because of the businesses that I have run, which has had the combination of whites, blacks, Hispanics - you know, we had a total diversity. But also because of the corporations whose board I've served on for the last 20 years. I have seen blacks in middle management move up to top management in some of the biggest corporations in America.”
As for African Americans who remain economically disadvantaged, Cain said they often only had themselves to blame.
“They weren't held back because of racism,” Cain said. “People sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as an excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve.”