I Am Okay With Ben Carson

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During the spring of 1997, I first became aware of Ben Carson. It was also that spring in which I elected to interview and accept a youth ministry position at one of the largest churches of Christ congregations in the nation. While holding office hours on one June day of 1997, I took a trip to the congregation’s library. I checked out Carson’s book, Gifted Hands, and was amazed by him as a black man with such a prolific story. I looked up to Ben; he represented a different narrative to the one I was used to. After listening to an NPR piece on Ben Carson today, I sat back and thought about my initial thoughts of him.

Sure enough, the NPR piece fit my impressions. Here is a man that dealt with some of the things I dealt with at an early age. I got into a number of fights before being allotted an opportunity to attend ACA – a Montgomery independent school. What many do not know about me is that I was admitted on probation. My grades were not great until I  got to ACA. It is a good thing I tested well. Before attending ACA, I had been suspended a number of times for fighting. I had serious anger issues and a distrust of others. I watched drug deals and community gun violence toward others. Once at ACA, I divorced myself from a few folks I tended to run the streets with. I had a great girlfriend, teachers, and a head football coach who held me accountable. I took demanding courses and became a great student. My football coach is still one of my heroes. Better yet, without an ACA education I would not be the academic, teacher, nor husband that I am today.

Ben Carson also had poor grades; he got in fights and was suspended from school too. However, according to his story, he did try to kill a person out of anger. I never did that; however, I was in some serious fights. I will admit to always having a bit of fanfare toward Carson. Here is a man that defied the inner city of Detroit. Regardless of his accomplishments, he is still a black man that dealt with all of the realities black men face. He built centers for black kids in hopes of helping them improve in school; he gave money to help inner city black kids afford college. I was in love with this man. Black people in general loved him.

Hence, it is at this point that I am perplexed. Carson has allied himself with a very conservative ideological position that spells anti-black. His voice has become more radical as his disposition toward the black community is a bit distant. I am not sure why this is the case. I know he had no help in his emergence to being a better student. Well, his faith and belief in God offered him salvation. And yes, he has reached a point of being a savior to many. However, I am not sure his approach to being a savior extends fully to black people. I want Carson to know that not all people can emulate his direct path. It is here that I believe his voice needs to be more vocal toward the lack of redistribution of wealth to certain communities. Carson needs to make amend with black folks. Beating up Obama and attacking institutions that empowers black people is not the answer.

As a leftist, I still admire and believe in Ben Carson. Black people spend too much time putting other black people down. I would like to see Carson model this by traveling back to the Ben I first discovered. Black men cannot afford to throw other black men under the bus. I admire his faith and what he has managed to do. So, I will no longer take aim at Ben. However, I will be his champion in hopes that he will grasp the complexities of race and class in the 21st century.

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7 thoughts on “I Am Okay With Ben Carson

  1. I’m fine with Ben Carson as a doctor. It’s this assumption that having zero experience in elective office somehow magically grants one the purity required to run for the top elective office in the country that I’m not fine with.

    If he is the humble person he presents himself to be, why can’t he run for mayor, or for Congress instead? He ought to understand the value and necessity of qualifying yourself through a period of internship, just as he did to become a surgeon.

  2. I am with you. I have a great deal of respect for him as a doctor, and for what he has managed to achieve in his life. He was not handed anything. It is here that point addresses the message of a universal path. I am at odds with his beliefs and what those beliefs have done to create distance between Carson and the black community. I would love to hear him address the black community directly. He might have done so and I do not know.

  3. I’m leftist as well, and a firm believer of the Vermont style Social Democracy. Dr. Carson is an amazingly intelligent man and I think it’s not only his political views that have ostracized him from the Black community, but his cultural traditions have changed considerably from his initial upbring. Perhaps his professional circles have caused the divide.

    Black in America is probably more complex than ever before in order to clearly define. It’s our culture, norms and traditions (inner-circles) that help to shape and mode our political views, as I’m am sure you are fully aware. Black Americans of the 1980s were a very different people from the 2000s. Blacks from the 50s until the 70s were also different. The Black experience continues to morph and progress in varies ways sometimes good and sometimes bad, while still struggling against racism.

    I was a teenager during the Cosby era, I use that term loosely, and for the life of me, I have a hard time understanding today’s Hip-Hop culture and traditions. I’m sure Dr. Carson felt the same during the 50s to 70s transition. Almost 90 percent of Black teens and adults in their 40s are heavily influenced by Hip Hop culture. I grew up with a tremendous Pop-music tradition from the Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna persona. Most teenagers during the 80s were not focused solely on Hip Hop culture. The 80s were a time when most Black teenagers experimented with other cultures more so than now.

    I suspect the majority of Dr. Carson’s peers and associates are not the leftist type of Anglo-Saxon Protestants. And he is certainly not around very many Black medical scientist in his field, if I had to guess. His world is probably very different from yesteryear. He has assimilated to those who are close to him in his world. This may not be good news for the majority of the Black community, but it is probably a fact. Professionals in any industry find themselves greatly influenced by the culture of their peers. Fortunately for myself, most IT professionals are heavy liberal and the reason why I’m probably more liberal than I have ever been. The culture of our peers can have a great effect on our choices. It’s probably safe to assume, Dr. Carson is a victim of his peers.

    I think it’s a case of a transformed, very intelligent American, who happens to be Black who can no longer understand in totality, Black America of today. Black America is more far removed from conservative values than even the 1980s Blacks. Is it his fault? yes and no, and both are correct answers. His mentality reflects more of his professional peers than that of his past.

    • Eddie, you present an excellent point. He is not at all at fault. But, he has enclosed himself with like minded people, thus furthering his ability to grasp the day-to-day realities of the very folks he condemns. Again, I am not attacking him. I think he is a good person who has done great things. Yet, back to your central point, he has a different and far more conservative enclave than what he might have had before. I will admit that I like him more than Justice Clarence Thomas, whom I find to be arrogant.

      Can you say more to this point here: “Most teenagers during the 80s were not focused solely on Hip Hop culture. The 80s were a time when most Black teenagers experimented with other cultures more so than now.”

      I would have assumed that teens today are more willing to explore due to the availability of the Internet. Again, I do not know.

  4. To a certain degree that’s true. Mass media and the Internet have made information readily available and teens are more willing to at least sociably explorer other races, but there seems to be a missing element. It’s almost a contradiction of sorts. What I mean by this, the apparent music, fashion and behavioral trends that seem to reflect a one dimensional mindset of self deprivation in our communities. Teens seem to love to emulate one aspect of society, the downtrodden. This is a very complex subject with several dimensions, of course. And it effects the Black and Latino communities more than any other, but the White community are starting to feel the repercussions also.

    Yes, I appreciate some Hip Hop, just like any other, but it never defined me, nor did I internalize the music as a lifestyle. I never emulated the culture as a teen and most teens from the 80s just saw it as another form of music, much like RnB, Pop and Rock.

    Kids from the 80s were definitely more well rounded socially and much more mature in general. I’ve never seen an entire generation of teens engulfed by a culture that originated from places that most people would try to hide from 30 years ago. Even kids who were from the ghettos and tried to hide the fact, were never really proud of it and they certainly didn’t boast about their situation. The only exceptions were those heavily involved in gang culture and those who were products of an completely ignorant upbring. Usually teens who knew there was a better way, would at least try to show some form of reservedness. Now, it’s worn like a badge of honor. The more ghetto, the better. It’s simply perplexing when you sit and think about it. The Blacks from the mid 1800’s up until the 1960’s were always a proud people and did their very best to accomplish the most, no matter what their economic situation was. They always represented themselves with the best possibly available to them. We’ve lost something so very important to the very existence of our being. And the current social climate of racism helps to perpetuate this sort of self deprivation.

    So, while today’s teens are much more apt to date or marry outside their race we see this strange occurrence of an almost anti-intellectual movement and it seems that certain industries have it in their best interest to ensure that we stay ignorant and self destructive. Unfortunately our youth are on this path. Our culture has changed into something that I’m sure W.E.B Dubois would not recognize and probably wonder what has happen to all of the great progress. What happen to the intellectual movements and the uplifting of a people? Certainly racist institutions play a huge role, but racism of the 1800s up until the 1960s was a lot more virulent, but our communities were so much more productive. This state of anti-intellectual has foster some really disturbing behaviors and something has to be done.

    I consider myself lucky enough that I’m old enough to remember when things were completely different. I think it was around the 70s that we really started to see this growing social decay of our communities. The increased rift of racism, a sort of backward early 20th century mindset and the epidemic of ignorance are a recipe for disaster and at who’s expense?

  5. Eddie, what a great comment as always. I was just discussing this with a colleague. Your point on maturity is a great one. I am like you in that I wonder what role technology and social media plays. It is a perplexing element. Better yet, it really is a sociological point that I do believe is discussed among many.

    Your note that black folks have lost something is interesting. What role does materialism and capitalism play in all of this? The desire to be like others and to have as much as others, though that means dismissing the historical past which addresses black suffering. Your point is a very conservative one — but one I wholly agree with. We black folks too often want it easy. Generations of black folks tell their kids to be a singer or an athlete, at the expense of other things. There is nothing wrong with such goals, but such attitudes have constructed a stereotype about us.

    • There was a time not too long ago, Blacks were striving to become educators, doctors, lawyers and engineers. Skilled professionalism was the motto of Black lives up until the mid 1980s. Once the mega million producing athletes were able to command salaries beyond the average white-collar worker, we no longer saw the push for the skilled laborers. I would say, there was a cultural shift during the early 80s and it seems to have changed our culture dramatically. The Blacks from our great-grandfathers and grandfathers were almost a completely different people, with 1000 times more racism to combat on a daily basis. Most of us can only read about the oppression they endured, we have no realization of the magnitude.

      Lynchings, harassment of all sorts, killings, loss of land, property and lives with no judicial system in place to advocate was rampant on a daily basis, but they still managed to produce a more productive community. These are just a few of the key things we’ve lost, not to mention many more. We may be perhaps, the last bastion of professionals for the next 20 to 30 years to come along in droves, before we see some kind of radical change. The current youth and it’s culture is not very promising and it’s really sad to see. And these backward, racist, hubris people will only increase like flies under the current social climate. It’s like a chronic disease, and we need a very strong remedy to cure the sickness.

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