By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
In March of 1997, according to an archived edition of the New Journal and Guide, Dr. Ben Carson was scheduled to speak at a conference at Hampton University designed to inspire young Blacks into the medical field.
Carson, from 1984 to 2013, was head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore where he not only saved lives in the operating room but also inspired countless young people to overcome rough beginnings and reach for the stars. He is known for surgical separation of conjoined twins, as well as being a bestselling motivational author.
Carson is retired now and has a new place on the public stage, joining 12 or so politicians seeking the Republican Party’s nomination to run for president.
His support from the right wing of the GOP and his candidacy were given wings two years when he publicly challenged President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act at an event the two men attended.
National polls which are measuring who Republican primary voters are supporting in the current primary race, say that Carson is second to Donald Trump.
The campaigns of both men are propelled by the anti-establishment “I am not a politician” theme and harping on their pro-gun, anti-gay and immigration reform stands.
Carson’s attack on the Affordable Care Act, his views on gun control, opposition to a Muslim being president, and other conservative stances are in line with the right wing of the GOP.
Before his political run, few knew of his political views on any issue.
African-Americans and many progressive Whites increasingly are viewing him through his political views more readily than his career as a history-making physician.
Most recently, he said on national TV that the Holocaust would have been “greatly diminished” if Jews had been able to keep firearms in their homes.
Jonathan Greenblatt, of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in the Huffington Post: “It is mind-bending to suggest that personal firearms in the hands of the small number of Germany’s Jews (about 214,000 remaining in Germany in 1938) could have stopped the totalitarian onslaught of Nazi Germany when the armies of Poland, France, Belgium and numerous other countries were overwhelmed by the Third Reich.”
Interviews conducted by this reporter on Black voter attitudes toward Carson indicate a continued respect for him as a physician, but doubts that he is a viable political candidate seeking the White House.
“He is a nice man and brilliant neurosurgeon, but he is totally uninformed as a politician,” said March Cromuel, former President of the Chesapeake NAACP. “The people who back him are tuned into his criticism of President Obama. Anytime they can get one Black man to disrespect another, especially a leader, conservative Whites will support him.”
Virginia State Senator Mamie Locke of Hampton is the Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.
“It is a disgrace that he has such a total lack of awareness of what is taking place in the Black community,” said Locke. “Having grown up in Detroit by a struggling mother, one would assume he would.
“So far as his stance on Muslims and presidency,” Locke continued, “how dare he denigrate a person for their religious faith who wants to lead a country which was founded by people who came here to escape religious persecution. That is remarkably stupid.”
Dennis Edwards is a columnist for the New Journal and Guide, and is a winner of an Emmy and other accolades for his work.
“What he (Dr. Carson) is saying is radically outside of the reason why he was idolized before he got into politics,” said Edwards, a native of Suffolk.
Edwards said that Carson has built a stellar reputation as a Pediatric Neurosurgeon at powerful Johns Hopkins University Hospital which may have culturally isolated him from “the real world we normal people navigate each day.”
“Most Black people we know are navigating two or three cultural worlds each day professionally and socially,” said Edwards. “Carson seems to be an isolated victim of his success. It’s scary that you can be good at one thing, but a failure at another.”
Carson grew up in the urban corridor of Detroit with a single parent.
“But I think he has forgotten where he came from,” said long time Pastor and Civil Rights Activist Dr. Marcellus Harris of Hampton. “He is being spoon-fed these conservative ideas by the people who are financing his campaign. It seems he knows nothing about politics or the suffering of Black and poor people.
“He is blaming the victims for their plight and not the system designed to disenfranchise them economically and socially,” said Harris. “He is actually disenfranchised from the Black experience … it’s a disgrace, but there are Whites who love him because he is denouncing Black leadership and the community.”
History Professor Emeritus and author Dr. Henry Lewis Suggs, said that Carson’s view of the world “illustrates he has not read much about American or African-American history.”
“He is catering to the view of the U.S. Constitution and the world from the view of right wing, middle class White people, not African-Americans,” said Dr. Suggs. “These people are bankrolling his campaign so he has internalized their political views and they support him.
“He has not read much or had much experience in foreign or domestic affairs,” said Suggs. “This is why his views are so narrow and simplistic.”
Suggs said that Carson has not read about the history of the GOP and the Black community, when African-Americans were strong supporters of the Party.
“He would know that the vote alone would not uplift the race, as Booker T. Washington believed,” said Suggs. “The race needs solid economic development in our urban and rural communities. Places like his native Detroit or Norfolk, Virginia with such large Black populations, are prime examples where this could take place.
“But it seems he is socially and political isolated. I am sure he does not read the Black newspapers or listen to Black leaders and to their ideas about how to uplift our people.”