Ben Carson’s Slavery to Slavery
First and foremost, let us not ever forget that slavery – a repressive, dehumanizing economic and social system – is a permanent stain on this nation’s mostly positive past. While Americans should take pride in what this nation has meant to the people of the world throughout its 240-year history, that pride will always be tempered by the ugliness of slavery.
The repressive, state-sponsored racism that followed slavery and Reconstruction in the South is also a permanent stain. So many people unfairly lost their civil rights, their humanity and sometimes their lives in a system that locked them in second-class status.
We as a nation have made progress moving beyond this ugly part of our history. No nation has done as well as the United States – in human history – in terms of emending for repression along ethnic lines. There is still a strong debate about the depth of slavery’s legacy. Are African-Americans still suffering from some lasting impact from slavery? Is there some form of victimization in which some take advantage?
We have made progress, but slavery remains an imperfection with which we still struggle. For a politician to diminish this struggle for political purposes is beyond tasteless, yet Ben Carson seems to not be able to get enough of it.
In 2013, as he became a rising star among conservatives, he stated that the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – was the worst thing to happen to America since slavery and that Obamacare was a form of slavery.
Such a statement is troubling on its surface. The ACA is a policy. It might be a poor policy, but it still is a policy. It does not have a public option. It is not single-payer. To say that a policy that regulates the insurance industry is worse than Jim Crow is beyond troubling. When Carson, an African-American, makes this comparison, it seems to serve a twisted purpose. For those less sensitive to the pain that slavery and Jim Crow brought to African-Americans, this comparison takes the edge away from those past shames. Of course, it does nothing to bring us together since there is a whole population in this country that will forever see slavery and Jim Crow as exponentially worse than insurance regulation and subsidies. What do those people think when they see something as ugly as Jim Crow compared to some health care regulation?
Then again, does Carson even care about those people anyway?
Carson – during his Presidential campaign – made another similar statement. His statement that women who seek to terminate an unwanted pregnancy are like slaveowners is just as distasteful. Again, the comparison is not accidental. By diminishing the negativity of slavery and connecting that negativity to non-conservative policies, Carson increases his popularity with conservatives; however, for people that see slavery and Jim Crow as more serious than today’s conservative-versus-liberal political bickering, such comparisons are hopelessly repugnant.
Then again, does Carson really care about those people? Is he really concerned about those whose ancestors were dehumanized? Does he really want to be a leader, to challenge those less sensitive to be at least empathetic to those whose grandparents struggled through something that the doctor does not seem to remember?
It appears not. Just as Carson claims he helped his white classmates hide away from the rioters in Detroit the night MLK was killed (a story that has not been corroborated by any former classmate), he seems happy to shield conservatives from the reality that slavery and Jim Crow are more than just provacative talking points on the campaign trail.
Let’s see how many African-Americans Carson brings to conservatism.