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“What Ben Carson Doesn’t Get”: If Obama Wasn’t ‘Black’ Before, He Certainly Is Now

Today’s column is for the benefit of one Dr. Benjamin Solomon Carson.

He shouldn’t need what follows, but obviously does. No other conclusion is possible after his interview with Politico a few days ago.

The subject was Barack Obama and what the Republican presidential contender sees as the inferior quality of the president’s blackness. “He’s an ‘African’ American,” said Carson. “He was, you know, raised white. I mean, like most Americans, I was proud that we broke the color barrier when he was elected, but … he didn’t grow up like I grew up…”

Carson, the son of a struggling single mother who raised him in Detroit, and sometimes relied on food stamps to do so, noted that Obama, by contrast, spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. “So, for him to claim that he identifies with the experience of black Americans, I think, is a bit of a stretch.”

Lord, have mercy.

Let’s not even get into the fact that the man questioning Obama’s racial bona fides once stood before an audience of white conservatives and proclaimed the Affordable Care Act “the worst thing that has happened in this country since slavery.” Let’s deal instead with Carson’s implicit assertion that to be authentically black requires being fatherless and broke, scrabbling for subsistence in the ‘hood.

If a white man said that, we’d call it racist. And guess what? It’s also racist when a black man says it. Not to mention, self-hating and self-limiting. Carson denies the very depth and breadth of African-American life.

By his “logic,” Kobe Bryant, who grew up in Italy, is not black, Shaquille O’Neal, who spent part of his childhood in Germany, is not black, Miles Davis and Natalie Cole, who grew up in affluent households, were not black and Martin Luther King Jr., child of middle-class comfort and an intact family, was not black. According to him, they were all “raised white.”

Here’s what Carson doesn’t get: What we call “race” is not about neighborhood, class or family status. Though the African hostages upon whose backs this country was built shared certain common approaches to music, faith and art, race ultimately isn’t even about culture. Martin Luther King, for instance, was an opera buff; it’s hard to get further from “black” culture than “Lucia di Lammermoor.”

No, race is something Europeans invented as a tool of subjugation. The people who came here from England, France and Spain did not initially see themselves as “white,” after all. They declared themselves white — that is, a superior species of humanity — to justify in their own consciences the evil things they did to the people they took from Africa. Similarly, those Africans knew nothing about “black.” They saw themselves as Fulani, Mende, Mandinkan or Songhay. “Black” was an identity forced upon them with every bite of the lash and rattle of the chains.

In other words, to be black is not to share a common geography, class or family status, but rather, the common experience of being insulted, bullied and oppressed by people who think they are white. Want to know if you’re black? Try to rent a house in Miami. Try to hail a cab in Times Square. Try to win an Oscar in Hollywood. You’ll find out real quick.

And there is something spectacularly absurd in the fact of Barack Obama being criticized as “not black” by a Republican. Think about it: In the unlikely event he somehow managed to live the 47 years before his presidency without being insulted, bullied and oppressed by people who think they are white, Obama has sure made up for it since. Members of Carson’s party have called him “boy,” “uppity” and “ape” and have gone to extraordinary and unprecedented lengths to block him from doing … anything.

So the good doctor can relax. If Obama wasn’t “black” before, he certainly is now.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald: The National Memo, February 29, 2016

February 29, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Ben Carson, White Conservatives | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Ben Carson Is White America’s Perfect Black Candidate”: Murdoch’s Tweet Reflects View Held By Many Conservative Whites

To hear Rupert Murdoch tell it, what America needs is a “real black president.” In a string of tweets Wednesday, the chairman and CEO of the News Corp signaled his support for Dr. Ben Carson, who is among the top tier of 2016 GOP candidates. The media mogul’s use of the word “real” was met with outrage on social media and particularly offensive to the sitting president (Murdoch quickly apologized).

Murdoch might be a troll with a billion dollars, but he is not alone in celebrating Carson’s political fortunes. In recent weeks, on the heels of controversial remarks about Muslims, a head-scratching deluge of money—said to be in the millions—poured into Carson’s campaign coffers. He has watched his poll numbers triple. He bounced from one warmly lit television studio to another—unfamiliar territory for a man most renowned for his heroics in a Baltimore operating room.

Can he actually win the Republican primary? The answer—depending on whom you ask—varies between “damn right, he can” and “hell-to-the-nawl.”

“Everywhere pundits keep underestimating Ben Carson,” tweeted Murdoch. “But [the] public understand[s] humility as admirable, listen to the multi-faceted strong message.”

Carson is quick to confess that he is no politician. His genial tone is so low and comforting that it’s easy to miss how closely he aligns with far right-wing activists. Though his style could not be more different than Trump’s over-the-top ranting, both men appear to be benefitting from widespread Republican angst about topping the ticket with another D.C. insider. Grassroots activists are looking for someone they can trust in the proverbial foxhole: one who won’t bend on Republican principles. No one expected the soft-spoken, retired neurosurgeon to eclipse former Florida governor Jeb! Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio.

“I don’t think he has ever met or had a conversation with [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell or [Speaker of the House John] Boehner,” said conservative radio host and commentator Armstrong Williams, who serves as Carson’s business manager and personal adviser. “The establishment doesn’t know what to do with him. He’s baffling to them.”

That may well be, but the lure of a Carson candidacy could not be more appealing to some party leaders, Republican influencers like Murdoch, and rank-and-file voters—all of whom have been looking for a way to attract more non-white voters. For them, Carson is the perfect ambassador: an American success story, who spares no breath in deriding liberal economic policies, is ardently pro-life, and knows his way around a Bible.

These people will tell you that Carson, raised by a single mother in hard-knock Detroit, is proof positive that the American Dream is alive and kicking, much like the conjoined twins he brilliantly separated as a surgeon. “You can’t question his intellect. You can’t question his accomplishments,” Williams continued. “He loves this country. He’s the genuine article and people are in tune to that.”

If Williams is right, his candidate is polling “around 17-18 percent” among black voters. In a general election, that’s game over. Those numbers come as no surprise to Joy-Ann Reid, a national news correspondent for MSNBC.

“I think the black community, writ large, and particularly those of us who are Generation X and older, viewed Dr. Carson as an icon,” Reid recalled. “[He was] a favorite son who made good, and reflected glowingly on the potential for black folk to excel, even from humble beginnings.”

However, if history is any indication, black conservatives do not draw any more support from the black community than their white counterparts. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) trounced his Democratic opponent to become the first African-American senator elected from the South since Reconstruction. But he did it with marginal backing from black voters. That hasn’t stopped Scott from becoming a critical voice on key issues, such as criminal justice reform and police body cameras, and working to earn the support that has eluded him.

“Scott is the real deal,” said former South Carolina lawmaker Bakari Sellers, who is a Democrat. “Ben Carson is no Tim Scott.”

To be sure, there is a solid conservative streak running through the African-American community, especially among people of faith. Many, however, still consider the Republican brand toxic and find many tenets of the national platform antagonistic to their interests. Then too, the GOP owes much of its modern-day success as a national party to its stronghold in the South, gained largely through acts of defiance against the Civil Rights movement.

Against that backdrop, Reid is skeptical about how much black support Carson can actually deliver.

“Now, I think many black Americans look upon Dr. Carson with a mix of puzzlement and disappointment,” Reid said. “The fact that he has made himself nationally prominent by insulting the first black president of the United States, and that he is now building on that with strange utterance after strange utterance leaves many African-Americans just shaking their heads.”

That might not be the real point, Reid said. As Murdoch’s messages seem to suggest, Carson may in fact hold the keys to attracting more white voters who may have been previously turned off by some of the more extreme, virulently racist voices in the discourse.

“Ben Carson is the ideal candidate of color for the right,” Reid said. “He rejects race as a construct for explaining social and economic mobility, just as white conservatives do; and he even rejects the public programs that helped his own family survive, mirroring the donor class of his party who want to get rid of those programs.”

“[Carson is a] vessel that alleviates some aversion guilt,” Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher asserted. “Most mainstream, middle-class Americans don’t want to vote for racists. There is something inoculating about Carson.”

Williams rejects that and says Carson’s appeal within the GOP is based on the fact that “his life story is more like most Americans’ than anyone who is seeking the GOP nomination.”

While Trump is out “Making America Great Again,” the man who hopes to topple the current GOP frontrunner is quietly holding a roving tent revival of the party faithful. In at least one national survey, Carson now leads the billionaire casino magnate by seven points.

Yes, it’s too soon to take a victory lap around an Iowa cornfield. Though, maybe somebody should gas up the truck just in case. And while they are at it, they should change Murdoch’s Twitter password.


By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, October 8, 2015

October 9, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Rupert Murdoch, White Conservatives | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Challenge For White Liberals”: A Conundrum That Usually Culminates In Some Sort Of Series Of Crossroads And Reckonings

It’s relatively easy for liberals to recognize and call out the racism of conservatives. But the interaction between #BlackLivesMatter activists and Bernie Sanders has given us an opportunity to examine our own unique brand.

I’m not here to judge or support the manner in which these activists confronted Sanders. I’ll simply note that many of the people criticizing them are the ones who have celebrated the same tactics when used in other situations: Exhibit A.

As so often happens when these opportunities present themselves, I am reminded of something “Zuky” wrote way back in 2007 about the “white liberal conundrum.” I’d like to take a moment to review what he said because it captures many of the interactions I’m reading on social media lately.

First of all, let’s define what we’re talking about:

Anti-racism is a rewarding but grueling journey which must be consciously undertaken and intrepidly pursued (both inwardly and outwardly) if one hopes to make serious progress along its twisting passageways and steep inclines. There’s no static end-condition at which an anti-racist can arrive and definitively declare, “Hallelujah! I am Not A Racist!” Rather, it’s a lifelong process of historical education, vigilant self-interrogation, personal growth, and socio-political agitation.

Now, let’s look at the difference between conservative and liberal racism.

Some might be surprised to learn that when people of color talk about racism amongst ourselves, white liberals often receive a far harsher skewering than white conservatives or overt racists. Many of my POC friends would actually prefer to hang out with an Archie Bunker-type who spits flagrantly offensive opinions, rather than a colorblind liberal whose insidious paternalism, dehumanizing tokenism, and cognitive indoctrination ooze out between superficially progressive words. At least the former gives you something to work with, something above-board to engage and argue against; the latter tacitly insists on imposing and maintaining an illusion of non-racist moral purity which provides little to no room for genuine self-examination or racial dialogue.

Ouch! If that one didn’t sting a bit, you’re probably not paying attention.

What usually happens when we’re confronted about this?

Countless blogospheric discussions on racism amply demonstrate the manner in which many white liberals start acting victimized and angry if anyone attempts to burst their racism-free bubble, oftentimes inexplicably bringing up non-white friends, lovers, adopted children, relatives, ancestors; dismissing, belittling, or obtusely misreading substantive historically-informed analysis of white supremacism as “divisive”, “angry”, “irrational”; downplaying racism as an interpersonal social stigma and bad PR, rather than an overarching system of power under which we all live and which has socialized us all; and threatening to walk away from discussion if persons of color do not conform to a narrow white-centered comfort zone. Such people aren’t necessarily racists in the hate-crime sense of the word, but they are usually acting out social dynamics created by racism and replicating the racist social relationships they were conditioned since birth to replicate.

Any of that sound familiar? Zuky goes on from there with a description that sounds an awful lot like what happened both at Netroots Nation and in the aftermath.

From what I can see, though, a solid majority of white liberals maintain a fairly hostile posture toward anti-racist discourse and critique, while of course adamantly denying this hostility. Many white liberals consider themselves rather enlightened for their ability to retroactively support the Civil Rights movement and to quote safely dead anti-racist icons, even though their present-day physical, intellectual, and political orbits remain mostly segregated…Armed with “diversity” soundbites and melanin-inclusive photo-ops, they seek electoral, financial, and public relations support from people of color. Yet the consistent outcome of their institution-building agendas is to deprioritize and marginalize our voices, perspectives, experiences, concerns, cultures, and initiatives.

Why is it so hard for white liberals to confront this bias? Because doing so will likely cost us…perhaps a lot.

For those white liberals and progressives who become serious about extracting racism from their worlds and their lives, who wish to participate in the dismantling of white supremacism, the white liberal conundrum usually culminates in some sort of series of crossroads and reckonings. They’re often forced to make tough decisions about which of their previous alliances and networks — newly illuminated and often unfavorably recontextualized by anti-racist analysis — are worth trying to maintain, which are too invested in the distortions of the white lens to salvage, and which new directions and networks to pursue.

On a personal note, I read this article by Zuky back when he first posted it in 2007 and I can tell you that putting his advice into practice is difficult and still mostly aspirational for me. But in the process of working on it, I’ve learned more about myself and the world we live in than I could possibly capture in a blog post. Zuky is absolutely right, doing so has meant that I have left some old alliances behind and found “new directions and networks to pursue.” In the end, I have no regrets.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 21, 2015



July 25, 2015 Posted by | Racism, White Conservatives, White Liberals | , , , , | 2 Comments


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