What Dr. Carson Got Right And Wrong About Race And President Obama
February 24, 2016
On Tuesday February 23, 2016, barely relevant Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, made an awkward comment regarding President Obama’s racial ‘identity’, and his attachment to Black America. Dr. Carson juxtaposed his experience with President Obamas, stating that it was his experience, in comparison, is what you would call the ‘typical’ black experience in America. I made a brief Facebook post on my thoughts, but I felt this was a subject that needed to be expounded upon.
First let us address the irony that is Dr. Ben Carson’s statement. Truthfully, Dr. Carson is being lambasted for his comments in the African American and progressive community. Simply because in the past his comments on race, politics, and overall social issues ringed of someone who himself has a hard time understanding the black racial dynamic of American society. Dr. Carson has gone on record to say that because he is a republican, people view him as an ‘uncle tom’. However, blacks who have called him that do not associate political affiliation with being a sell-out. The fact of the matter is General Colin Powell, who has always been a lifelong Republican, has never been deemed an ‘uncle tom’ by African Americans. In fact General Powell himself has stated that the problem with his party (Republicans), is that there is still a very much “a dark vein of racism” in the party in the way they view minorities (remember this is STILL a very notable public figure in his party and former republican administration official). The Generals comments directly contrast Dr. Carson, who has claimed to have never witnessed or been privy too bigotry in his own party. However the reason most black Americans find it hard to identify with Dr. Carson, stems directly to his previous comments on race and social issues, specifically, but not limited too, Black Lives Matter (calling them bullies and that ALL lives matter is the better idea); Missouri student protest (calling the protesters ‘infantile’ and wrong); Confederate Flag (saying he sees no problem with its existence), and my personal favorite saying Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery. All of this (and more) contributed to his moniker of persona non-grata within the African American community. You cannot pick and choose when you want identify race as subject, that is called willful blindness. With that being said, his assessment of President Obama’s racial upbringing was not entirely off base.
But before we get into that, it must be stated, that there is no ‘typical’ black American experience. One of the most fascinating things about the beautiful tapestry that is Black America is the fact that our culture is rich in background, yet connective through understanding. A black person living in Vermont will have an entirely different experience than a black person living South Dakota. We are not a race monochrome experiences; our ancestry ranges from Africa, Caribbean, Europe and of course America. What President Obama represent is a person who does not embody the ‘limited’ ideal of a black person but actually the more appropriate acknowledgement that we come from other backgrounds, NOT just from southern states or Midwestern/Eastern urban populous.
What Dr. Carson did get RIGHT about President Obama was despite his ‘outside the box’ upbringing, his identity does not fold along the same lines with the majority of African Americans’ experiences and lives. Someone who is Ivy League educated (becoming the first African American as Editor and Chief of the Harvard Law Review), spending formative years living abroad, and having both a Midwestern (Kansas) and Pacific (Hawaii) upbringing. I have always said that as much as blacks identified with the ideas of President Obama it was his marriage to Michelle Obama that solidified their alignment to him. First Lady Michelle Obama represents the connections that most Black Americans could align and understand. An educated career woman, who was raised in Chicago, but racial tree extends to South Carolina pre-civil war.
The problem with Dr. Carson’s statement (at least one of the problems) is that it comes from a person who represents a portion of the RIGHT wing that has always challenged racial context of this President. During his two presidential terms, President Obama has been deemed from everything from too black, to not black enough. He is criticized for ‘invoking’ race into social conversations, but then accused by the same RIGHT wing as not doing enough for Black Americans. Not to mention their consistent ‘dog whistle’ politics regarding our commander and chief. All of these inconsistencies are enough to make an observer lose track of where exactly does President Barack Obama fall in the racial draft. At the end of the day what the RIGHT and consequentially the Republican party, failed to reconcile about President Obama’s connection to blacks as a whole, is that the constant undermining of minority in a position of power is something African Americans, regardless of current class/economic status or personal background could relate. Perhaps the most ironic thing regarding the Dr. Ben Carson and Pres. Barack Obama dynamic, is that person with a ‘different’ background, understands us more than a person who was raised in Detroit. Maybe Dr. Carson should spend less time worrying about Pres. Obama’s past and should try to figure how he can reach the status of President Obama’s present, because as it stands Dr. Carson presidential hopes and dreams have as much percentage of Baracks southern roots, zero.