I have always been proud of Dr. Ben Carson and admired his Christian faith. However, I am at a loss for his puerile statements during his presidential campaign and wonder how this magnificent man of compassion has evolved into the typical Republican mouthpiece – spouting false truths about America’s values. I am not surprised when successful black professionals choose Republican values; however, I am at a loss for how these highly intelligent people can support a party that repeatedly and openly denigrates people of color.
For people of the African diaspora in America, the political choice is always the lesser of two evils. Democrats take us as a given and we never see them until election time; and promises made to our communities repeatedly go unfulfilled. Republicans clearly favor the wealthy class. They propose nothing beneficial for our communities and continue to argue that our failings are our own fault and fail to acknowledge the long-term hand of American racism in the plight of inner cities. No people in America – except First Nations people (Native Americans) – have required federal intervention more often for fair, not exceptional, treatment than black folks. Hence, black folk are left with choosing between two infinitely poor options where both parties really harbor clandestine ideas of our racial inferiority.
Ben Carson represents that segment of our community – highly successful professionals, athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs – who want to step out of the lockstep support of the Democratic party which uses our votes but gives us nothing in return. They want their freedom to choose. I grant them that; but supporting any party that is against healthcare for middle income and poor people, that supports unfettered gun privileges whose impact is felt more acutely in our neighborhoods and that continues to allow big business to break rules and injure the public with few criminal penalties seems unseasonable.
I would admire Carson’s presidential bid more if he would distinguish himself from those who promote anti-Muslim rhetoric. Does a run for political office really require besmirching people of color as Jeb Bush has already implied in his “free stuff” comment. We will see more of this. Every election cycle, the southern strategy comes into play for Republicans – win by inciting anti-black feelings and stoking fears that blacks are out of control as seen in the backlash against Black Lives Matter. Shouldn’t we be more afraid of armed, young, white males with unlimited gun privileges?
What can black folk do? First, be more politically astute and active. This is what won whatever advancements we’ve experienced post Brown v. Board of Education (1954). We amassed political power through registering black voters and we voted for people who voted for our issues. This is still an effective tool. Second, we stayed before the courts demanding that the Constitution be honored. The primary proponent of black success in the judiciary has been the federal courts. State courts have not yielded decisions that benefit our communities as seen in recent voting rights gambits. For blacks, federal courts opened doors to education, employment equality, and civil rights gains. Third, we must exercise our one trillion dollars in buying power to garner the attention of politicians at the local, state and national levels. The economic boycott in Miami led by Attorney H.T. Smith in Miami worked. We have to be a different people, more astute political faction. As 2 Timothy 2:7 has said, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Let us use our heads this political season.
Jeffrey Dean Swain Ph.d. is Dean of Campus Ministry at Florida Memorial University and an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice.