Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Uncle Ben's Old-Fashioned Revisionist History

Dr. Carson addresses HUD employees 
Remember back in November when Dr. Ben Carson declined a cabinet position in the Trump administration saying: "Having me as a federal bureaucrat would be like a fish out of water quite frankly."?

Don't say he didn't warn anyone.

Carson's outrageous comments on Monday in front of hundreds of gathered employees of the Department of Housing and Urban Development truly reflect the Republican Party's embrace of "alternative facts."

From the perspective of a student of history who knows a little something about the African Slave Trade and the institution of slavery in America, I believe it was ludicrous of Carson to compare European immigrants who voluntarily left their homelands and arrived at Ellis Island in the 19th and early 20th century, with African slaves who were first brought to the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.

Now it's one thing for this pontificating former neurosurgeon to wax philosophic and merge distorted fact with his own peculiar interpretation of Christian theology in the sing-song sermon-like way he did during the 2016 presidential campaign.

But his medical gifts and status as a darling of the Christian right don't necessarily make him qualified to head up a massive federal agency like Housing and Urban Development - a complex organization with over 8,000 employees and an annual budget of $49.3 billion tasked with (according to its mission statement) creating "strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all."

Does brain surgery qualify him as an affordable housing policy expert?

No, but like the equally-unqualified secretary of education Betsy DeVos, he's now the head of a major federal agency anyway.

How Africans "immigrated" to America
Carson's suggestion, widely panned by both citizens and academics on social media, was absurd.

African slaves, who were forcibly kidnapped from their homeland, shipped thousands of miles across the Atlantic while chained in the hulls of ships in traumatic deplorable conditions, before being sold into a state of slavery to live out their lives in a state of perpetual human bondage for financial profit, were not "immigrants".

Suggesting otherwise reflects a simplistic understanding of the complex history of the institution of slavery.

Such asinine statements also reflect the Republican Party's abject willingness to place extremist conservative ideology over relevant professional experience, knowledge, training and competency.

Carson's personal beliefs are his own business.

But his decision to share those kinds of personal views in front of an audience of hundreds of HUD professionals and policy experts in a public forum where he was essentially introducing himself as the agency head was unprofessional - and remarkably inappropriate.

Yesterday's statement was not the first time that Uncle Ben, as some in the African-American community have taken to calling him, has demonstrated a questionable grasp of history and a bizarre willingness to try and factually retrofit the institution of slavery to fit conservative principles that exist far outside the mainstream of the American center.

How can a guy who separated conjoined twins
at the brain be so ignorant about history?
Why would a gifted neurosurgeon with a background in biology, medicine, chemistry and neuroscience willingly allow himself to be used as a flagrant conservative tool?

Carson criticizing the Affordable Care Act as "the worst thing since slavery", as he famously did back in October of 2015, epitomized baseless partisan pandering - and can you imagine the reaction if Jeff Sessions or Ted Cruz had said such a thing?

It's as if Carson's being African-American functions less as an example of the diversity within the Republican Party than it does as a kind of political-racial "Get Out Of Jail Free Card" that enables the GOP to use him as a conduit to deliver messages that are intentionally demeaning to the black American community as a whole.

Or, as in the case of his misinformed comments on slavery, meant to undermine the significance of the role that institutionalized slavery has played in the economic and political marginalization of large segments of the black population.

In an essay published in the January 27th issue of the Hollywood Reporter about the duty and importance of African-American celebrities to use their influence to insure that the concerns and needs of the millions of voiceless poor and working-class black Americans who have, are and will be comprehensively ignored by the Trump administration, former NBA great-turned writer Kareem Abdul Jabbar noted of Caron's delusional right-wing agenda:

"More insidious is Carson's war on Planned Parenthood based on his inaccurate belief that clinics were placed in black neighborhoods to control the black population."

The 7'2" former LA Laker and master of the Sky Hook was far less sparing in his view of the role Trump envisions for Carson in the new administration given his own admission that "has no government experience." 

Trump's "Black shills"? Manigault and Carson  
Jabbar suggested that Trump uses both Carson and Omarosa Manigault as "black shills to distract us from the paternalistic policies dismantling civil liberties for people of color, women, the LGBT community, Muslims and immigrants."        

Outspoken actor Samuel L. Jackson didn't hold back on his reaction to Carson's statement on African slaves being "immigrants" either.

In a widely-circulated Twitter message Jackson said: "OK!! Ben Carson...I cant! Immigrants? In the bottom of SLAVE SHIPS?!! MUTHAFUKKA PLEASE!!! #dickheadedtom"

And that's just a slice of the contempt people expressed for Carson's HUD speech on social media.

Given Trump's desperate attempts to distract attention from almost every single person in his sphere of influence having proven ties to Russia, I honestly wouldn't be surprised if the White House intentionally gave that "slaves are immigrants" line to Carson and asked him to use it in his HUD speech - there's just something distinctively Bannon-ish about it.

If there's been a more shaky rollout of a presidential cabinet in the 241-year history of the United States than that of the current Republican administration I really don't know what it is.

With Trump now Tweeting outright quackery so outrageous that even his own staff refuse to comment on or defend it, perhaps Uncle Ben's helping of good old-fashioned revisionist history was meant to deflect the unwelcome attention to his boss' blatant lies.

If only for a moment.

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