I’m sure by now everyone has heard the unequivocally astonishing and absolutely unprecedented news: Ben Carson said some dumb shit.
In equally alarming news, water is, in fact, wet, the Earth is still round (despite recent fringe pushback on the issue) and Donald Trump’s tan appears to render his skin some sort of orange hue.
Y’all really need me to expound on the Carson thing? *sigh* Fine.
In Dr. Ben Carson’s first speech as secretary of Housing and Urban Development last Monday, the renowned neurosurgeon likened Immigrants coming into this country in search of a new life to chattel slaves coming into this country in search of jack shit but freedom and a ride back home.
“That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity,” Carson said, speaking to hundreds of department employees. “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”
Carson has since done the usual political gaffe dance of doubling down and then walking it back a little, but here’s the thing, people: Who the hell cares?
At this point, if you’re still surprised by the ridiculous things Ben “Obamacare Is The Worst Thing Since Slavery. Oh, And It’s Pretty Much Literal Slavery” Carson has to say, you’re just as much the butt of the joke as he is.
The real story here – or, rather, the real question – is: What the hell is this dude doing here in the first place? Dr. Carson may very well be a gifted surgeon and role model for underprivileged youths shooting for the stars, but what he isn’t is a person with even a modicum of experience in housing and/or urban development. So, why him?
First, let’s take a step back…
Back in January, then president elect Donald Trump aka Cheeto In Charge decided he really needed to tackle all the issues affecting the inner cities (read: the black vote homeland) so he decided to meet with none other than comedian, twice divorced relationship advisor and best damn Family Feud host to date Steve Harvey. Harvey probably caught just as much backlash from black folks just for participating this obvious farce as Ben Carson catches every time he chooses language that minimizes the cruel and oppressive nature of the Atlantic slave trade, but, truth be told, the issue wasn’t so much Harvey agreeing to meet with Trump as much as it was Trump wanting to meet with Harvey.
Why would the president… the holder of the highest office in the land… the leader of the “free world” meet with a random black entertainer for something this important? He didn’t tap a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Chicago or Detroit chapters of the NAACP (I’m convinced those are the only two cities white conservatives think black folks live in), Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson or, oh I don’t know, somebody actually in the field of developing urban communities. He basically went for the first friendly negro he could think of to appease “the blacks”.
Imagine if he wanted to do something about the issues concerning the Latinx-American community, so he tapped George Lopez or Carlos Mencia. Or, imagine if (so white people can identify with where I’m going here) his idea of appealing to the Irish and Italian-American communities was to meet with Dennis Leary and Ray Romano. It would be a move widely regarded as transparent, patronizing and unbefitting for a sitting president. It should’ve been the same in this case.
Ok, so back to Uncle Tom… I mean, Uncle Ben. The issue isn’t so much what he said, but the fact that he’s in the position to say it and the fact that the only black people Republicans and conservatives ever seem to want to associate with are those who are willing to spew such dismissive and obviously gas lighting nonsense.
Conservatives have long held on to this narrative that black people have been duped by liberals into perpetual servitude on the “Democrat plantation”. Basically, the so called “party of personal responsibility” points fingers everywhere but inward in explaining why they haven’t had much success in courting the coveted black vote.
The truth is, by and large, black people don’t place a whole lot of trust in Democrats either. This is why we didn’t turn out in large enough numbers to put Hillary Clinton over the top and in to the Oval Office. Still, we do cast our votes for the proverbial “lesser of two evils” so Democrats don’t have as much of an uphill battle in campaigning for our favor because all they really need to do is sit back and watch Republicans shoot themselves in the foot either through A. displays of overt racism, or B. weak, transparent attempts at gaining black favor in ways that ultimately leave them looking even more like the party of the whitest white men whoever white-ed in the history of Whitelandia.
Ben Carson is simply another failed attempt at looking the part. It’s not about his latest flub. He *is* the flub.
He’s in the position he’s in for the same reason Herman Cain, a restaurant CEO with limited political credentials, became a 2011 Republican front runner for a time. No he wasn’t anyone’s idea of presidential material, but he’s black, he’s conservative and he’ll tell black folks to stop being so closed minded and vote red, Goddammit!
Ben Carson is here for the same reason Stacey Dash, a D-list actress with zero experience in journalism or broadcasting, was granted a short lived gig as a Fox News contributor. Sure, she’s got all the intellectual prowess of a dulled thumbtack, but she’s black, she’s conservative and she’ll trash talk Obama, Black Lives Matter and she’ll tell us blackies we don’t need no stinking Black Entertainment Television or black award ceremony and that we should nix them lest we never get a seat in the white man’s academy (like she ain’t never deposited a B.E.T. check).
In retrospect, maybe it isn’t even about attracting black voters, maybe it’s about providing the Republican/conservative base with the illusion of diversity. Maybe it’s the “See, I have a black friend so I couldn’t possibly racist” effect that they’re going for. Either way, the Ben Carson’s of the world are being played. He’s not here because he’s qualified, he’s here because he’s black, he’s conservative and he’ll tell black folk and white folk alike that slavery really wasn’t such a big deal. That even slaves – I’m sorry, Immigrants – have a dream.