Ben Carson May Have Seen 'Real Racism,' But Barack Obama Was Not 'Raised White'

Illustration for article titled Ben Carson May Have Seen 'Real Racism,' But Barack Obama Was Not 'Raised White'

This may be hard to believe, but Ben Carson is still running for President of the United States. I have no idea what Dr. Ben has been up to while Donald Trump surges ahead, but I can only assume it included a nice long open-eyed nap.


Now that nobody is paying attention to him, Carson thought it would be a good time to talk about race. In a sit down with a very patient Politico reporter, Ben Carson said some truly stupid things about racism and the black experience in America—you can’t say he hasn’t learned something from the Republican party.

Carson went in on President Barack Obama asserting that, “He’s an ‘African’ American. He was, you know, raised white.”

Interesting, but that’s not how it works, Ben.

“I mean, like most Americans, I was proud that we broke the color barrier when he was elected, but … he didn’t grow up like I grew up … Many of his formative years were spent in Indonesia. So, for him to, you know, claim that, you know, he identifies with the experience of black Americans, I think, is a bit of a stretch.”

His comments sound an awful lot like things we’ve heard from convicted felon Dinesh D’souza, who was taken to task by Megyn Kelly, of all people, after arguing that President Obama did not grow up with the “African American experience.”

One thing I’ve always found interesting is the notion that people of color who grow up outside a community of their race are somehow immune to racism and an awareness of their racial identity. As if being the only black or brown person in an entire school makes someone less aware of their color. Speaking from experience, it does not.


But like any good rapper, Carson is very concerned with authenticity. Barack Obama is not a “real” black American, and the racism experienced by black people today is somehow less important or valid than the racism that was experienced by black people before.

Carson also suggested that what passes for racism now – in the age of Ferguson and Freddie Gray – isn’t comparable to the overt discrimination he encountered a half-century ago as a young man.

“Remember now, I’ve been around for 64 years, you know,” he added. “I’ve had a chance to see what real racism is.”


Ah yes, the old racism binary. Shame on all these hoodlums out there protesting the fake racism of being gunned down by a government agent whose job it is to protect you. Carson may have seen “real racism,” but so has any young black teenager today. I would love to see him lecture Mike Brown about the lack of racism experienced by black people today, but unfortunately, one of them has already been gunned down by a racist police officer.

Ben could also consider having a chat with black immigrants from Haiti and Nigeria and Jamaica who have been turned down for jobs, unfairly arrested and called niggers despite the fact that their parents weren’t here to experience the “real racism” he’s talking about.


Politico notes that Ben Carson has downplayed race throughout much of his campaign—I assume because he’s trying to get racists to vote for him.

When I pressed Carson on whether he’d experienced any racism in today’s Republican Party, though, he flatly denied it – and said the real issue was progressives who couldn’t accept the existence of a truly conservative black man. “They assume because you’re black, you have to think a certain way,” he said. “And if you don’t think that way, you’re ‘Uncle Tom,’ you’re worthy of every horrible epithet they can come up with; whereas, if I weren’t black, then I would just be a Republican.”


I’m not sure that black people want Ben Carson to think a certain way. Maybe they just don’t want him to think in a way that actively harms or undermines the pain of other black people. It might be that they think the ignorance he spews helps cultivate an environment that is dangerous for all people of color, including black people. Just a guess, but black people might not like the fact that he supports a political party that is trying to drag us back into the 1960s. I don’t know, it might be because he can’t even talk about Popeyes without sounding like a goober.

Ben Carson also went on to say something about classism being a bigger issue than racism because of course he did.


In a way, I’m glad that Ben Carson is finally discussing race in an open way. At least he’s forcing the Republican party, which according to Politico is 90 percent white, to remember that he is, indeed, a black man. At the same time, it’s rather sad to watch him pander to a voting base and a party that almost certainly wouldn’t support him if he wasn’t shilling these ridiculous talking points.

Anyway, blaming his lack of popularity among black people on his political party is lazy, and coming up with these reasons to attempt to discredit Barack Obama as well as young black Americans today is even worse. But Ben Carson will never be president, anyway, and he’ll maybe find greater success with black voters next time—if he can figure out how to be a popular black Republican candidate without throwing black people under the bus.


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Image via Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty.


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I think that there is a real lack of generosity on the part of Ben Carson that is hard to understand. He doesn’t seem to empathize with the pain of others or really think about the depth of other people’s subjective experiences. I mean, I don’t know him but damn, it’s like he just doesn’t give a shit on a basic level.

ETA: Of course he could be just alienated from everyone, including himself for pandering so much to the GOP.