Princeton University professor Cornel West thinks Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is wrong to suggest that racism no longer matters in this country.

Cain had told CNN's Candy Crowley Sunday that some simply used racism as an excuse when they failed to achieve their goals.

"I have seen blacks in middle management move up to top management in some of the biggest corporations in America," the candidate explained. "They weren't held back because of racism. No, people sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve."

Appearing on CNN Monday, West suggested Cain must be smoking something to think that racism no longer held back people of color.

"Well, black people have been working hard for decades," West remarked. "I think he needs to get off the symbolic crack pipe and acknowledge that the evidence is overwhelming. And I think he also knows that if brother Anthony Davis -- a brother who was just put to death -- were a white Wall Street banker brother, that the response in the nation would have been very different as opposed to a poor black brother."

"And that's just one small example -- one very small example of racism still at work holding people back."

PBS host Tavis Smiley found the notion that racism was no longer important so absurd that he was disappointed in CNN anchor Suzanne Malveaux for even calling attention to Cain's comments.

"It just troubles me, respectfully Suzanne, that CNN and MSNBC and Fox News and all these cable channels go for this nonsense," Smiley said. "They fall for -- if I can quote Eddie Murphy -- you fall for the banana in the tailpipe, and every time that Herman Cain says something ridiculous or crazy, blaming poor people for being poor, calling protesters anti-capitalist or suggesting that racism doesn't hold people back... It's almost silly to respond to because the evidence is so overwhelming."

"Well, Tavis, I certainly don't think that CNN is falling for anything by simply bringing up this discussion," Malveaux argued. "That's his point of view and he certainly is rising in the polls among the Republican candidates there."

"My point, respectfully, anyone who listens to what Herman Cain says and asks a question, 'Does he have a point?' A point about what?" Smiley asked. "The numbers -- it's so evident. It's so abundantly clear. There's such great clarity here that race is still a factor. You covered the president in the White House. Why does President Obama have a Secret Service detail that there's no comparison in history for any president... and we're talking about whether he has a point about racism in America?"

Watch this video from CNN's Newsroom, broadcast Oct. 10, 2011.