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.