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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

One Hundred Years Of Multitude And The New American Immigration Conniption

One hundred years ago, during the last great American conniption over immigration, the United States government went to unheard-of effort and expense to peer deep into the bubbling melting pot to find out, as this paper put it, “just what is being melted.”

A commission led by Senator William Dillingham, a Republican of Vermont, spent four years and $1 million on the project. Hundreds of researchers crisscrossed the country bearing notebooks and the latest scientific doctrines about race, psychology and anatomy.

They studied immigrants in mining and manufacturing, in prisons and on farms, in charity wards, hospitals and brothels. They drew maps and compared skulls. By 1911, they published the findings in 41 volumes, including a “Dictionary of Races or Peoples,” cataloging the world not by country but by racial pedigree, Abyssinians to Zyrians.

Forty-one volumes, all of it garbage.

The Dillingham Commission is remembered today, if it is remembered at all, as a relic of the age of eugenics, the idea that humanity can be improved through careful breeding, that inferior races muddy the gene pool. In this case, it was the swelling multitudes from southern and eastern Europe — Italians, Russians, Jews, others — who kept America’s Anglo-Saxons up at night.

I pored over the brittle pages of the report recently at the New York Public Library (they are available online). It was a cold plunge back to a time before white people existed — as a generic category, that is. Europeans were a motley lot then. Caucasians could be Aryan, Semitic or Euskaric; Aryans could be Teutonic, Celtic, Slavonic, Iranic or something else. And that was before you got down to Ruthenians and Russians, Dalmatians and Greeks, French and Italians. Subdivisions had subdivisions. And race and physiognomy controlled intelligence and character.

“Ruthenians are still more broadheaded than the Great Russians,” we learn. “This is taken to indicate a greater Tartar (Mongolian) admixture than is found among the latter, probably as does also the smaller nose, more scanty beard, and somewhat darker complexion.” Bohemians “are the most nearly like Western Europeans of all the Slavs.” “Their weight of brain is said to be greater than that of any other people in Europe.”

See if you can identify these types:

A) “cool, deliberate, patient, practical,” “capable of great progress in the political and social organization of modern civilization.”

B) “excitable, impulsive, highly imaginative,” but “having little adaptability to highly organized society.”

C) possessing a “sound, reliable temperament, rugged build and a dense, weather-resistant wiry coat.”

A) is a northern Italian. B) is a southern Italian. C) is a giant schnauzer, according to the American Kennel Club. I threw that in, just for comparison.

The commission had many recommendations: bar the Japanese; set country quotas; enact literacy tests; impose stiff fees to keep out the poor.

These poison seeds bore fruit by the early 1920s, with literacy tests, new restrictions on Asians and permanent quotas by country, all to preserve the Anglo-Saxon national identity that was thought to have existed before 1910.

It’s hard not to feel some gratitude when reading the Dillingham reports. Whatever else our government does wrong, at least it no longer says of Africans: “They are alike in inhabiting hot countries and in belonging to the lowest division of mankind from an evolutionary standpoint.”

But other passages prompt the chill of recognition. Dillingham’s spirit lives on today in Congress and the states, in lawmakers who rail against immigrants as a class of criminals, an invading army spreading disease and social ruin.

Who brandish unlawful status as proof of immigrants’ moral deficiency rather than the bankruptcy of our laws. Who condemn “illegals” but refuse to let anyone become legal. And who forget what generations of assimilation and intermarriage have shown: that today’s scary aliens invariably have American grandchildren who know little and care less about the old country.

It’s no longer acceptable to mention race, but fretting about newcomers’ education, poverty and assimilability is an effective substitute. After 100 years, we’re a better country, but still frightened by old shadows.

By: Lawrence Downs, Editorial Observer, The New York Times, March 25, 2011

March 26, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Immigrants, Immigration, Liberty, Politics, Republicans, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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