Pragmatically Choosing Role Models

Make no mistake: I despise the politics of Dr. Ben Carson, a man whose very demeanor and incessant comparisons of this nation to that of Nazi Germany are beyond disgusting. Carson’s brand of rhetoric is in the same poisonous vein of Black conservatives such as Alan Keyes and Allen West, professional bomb-throwers with nothing else to offer except sneering and mockery of the liberal ideology.

Justice Clarence Thomas is someone else I’m not fond of either, a man who annually and silently generates “think-pieces” as to what he could possibly be–well, thinking. His record for over 20 years has been overwhelmingly Right-centered, having voted in favor of Citizens United and the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act last year. The appearance of a conflict of interest his wife Virginia created while working as a lobbyist four years ago didn’t help his cause with me, either.

And who could forget Dr. Condoleezza Rice, one of the great architects of the now-certifiable false war in Iraq, one of George W. Bush’s closest national security advisors and eventual Secretary of State? Her antics were one of the major reasons our nation has been locked inside a seemingly perpetual season of war, that only now has shown signs of ending.

As a former Black conservative, these people make me cringe, particularly Dr. Carson, who just might end up being the token candidate of color in the Republican presidential primary for 2016. But is it right to completely dismiss his every accomplishment and past achievements simply because we don’t agree?

The Daily Beast’s Joshua DuBois seems to think so:

The problem is that, when exposed to the political limelight, Carson’s “gifted hands” have become careless, callous. And that’s a huge problem for former admirers like me.  Before our eyes, he is trading in the lasting significance of his impact on the world for whatever small reward is offered to him by CPAC, Fox News, or whatever Tea Party figure applauds him next. And we—the Carson boys, who met him years ago in our low moments and who he helped in ways small or large—can only watch in horror. For us, Dr. Ben Carson’s story has become an American tragedy. We can only pray that he reclaims his narrative in a way that still will offer others hope.

Here’s why I don’t agree.

Dr. Carson has indeed become much harder to look at, much less admire once he let his political views come to the fore at that prayer breakfast. As a kid from Baltimore, where Johns Hopkins Hospital’s ever-expanding takeover of the East Side continues, knowing that “Gifted Hands” was this much of a Right-wing jerk politically is a tough pill to swallow. But that does not in any way take from the fact that he was raised by a single mother in Detroit, graduated from Yale University, and led the neurosurgery department at Hopkins for many years, having become the first surgeon to separate conjoined twins back in 1987. Credit is and will always be due to this man on these facts.

DuBois’ critique further shows how pervasive this absolutist “all-or-nothing” ethos is within liberal circles, and we must work to destroy it. Far too many people (within Black culture particularly) seem to want every person they wish to throw support behind to fall in line with a litmus test of ideals, as demonstrated by all those who have panned President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative as something not worth doing because of “fundamental flaws”, as they call it. Ben Carson may not be one that a person of liberal cant would wish to emulate in terms of their politics, but if one of our Black youth has aspirations to be a doctor, Carson’s a great source of inspiration, as is Dr. Carl Hart, Columbia University’s first tenured Black professor of sciences; and as is Dr. April Wellons, the talented optometrist at a local store that worked on my own eyes three weeks ago.

Proper mentors and the people who guide us can be found all across the political spectrum. Learning to accept those that may disagree with us, however, is becoming increasingly difficult to do. It’s time to change that, and soon.


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