CPAC 2014: Do No Harm? Ben Carson is the Republican Party’s Newest Black Conservative Poison Pill
Dr. Ben Carson is a supremely talented and gifted surgeon. He is a credit to the medical profession.
These facts exist in tension with one another.
In some basic ways, Carson's role as a black human mascot and cheerleader for the White Right is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath he took as a doctor.
On a basic level, the Hippocratic Oath is a commitment to the truth. By comparison, Ben Carson's role in the Republican Party is based on lies and distortions.
Ben Carson’s fulfilling of the Republican Party’s fantasy that African-Americans are somehow hoodwinked and bamboozled in their decades of support for the Democratic Party is the first lie.
Here, Republicans, movement conservatives, and the White Right have reframed centuries of black citizenship and struggles for freedom into a narrative wherein African-Americans are dumb, stupid, and childlike.
Apparently, African-Americans are not reasoning and sophisticated citizens capable of making their own decisions in the service of collective self-interest. No. They are stuck on a “plantation” and need black conservatives such as Ben Carson and Herman Cain to rescue them.
Ben Carson is a happiness pill. In any other context, this would be an extremely troubling role for a medical professional.
As a happiness pill, Carson is a placebo, a fake drug and a high, a salve for Republicans. His purpose, like that of other black conservatives, is to be human chaff, an ointment, which relieves them from the mountain of evidence and charges that the Republican Party is a racist organization.
Carson is also a poison pill for the Republican Party.
His political vision is a failed one; he is playing the role of a black conservative political snake oil salesman to racially resentful white voters. More troubling, Ben Carson’s blackface version of white conservatism is a de facto embrace of white identity politics
The second poison pill is Ben Carson's claim that "Obamacare" is "the worst thing since slavery". His scare mongering Sarah Palin inspired death panel distortions of healthcare reform threaten to do real harm to the American people.
In fact, people of color in mass, young people, the elderly, as well as the poor and working classes, will all benefit from Obamacare.
A question: Where, and to whom, are Ben Carson's primary commitments as a medical professional?
Ben Carson is a doctor. His obligation to the truth, to do no harm, and the Hippocratic Oath, should demand that Carson not lie about the positive impact of Obama’s healthcare reforms in order to win support among his handlers in the Republican Party. Instead, Ben Carson has chosen the applause of white conservatives over his commitment to public health.
A second question: Is President Obama's expansion of the opportunity to buy health insurance really the worst thing to happen to American freedom since the enslavement of black Americans?
Although he has offered a facile clarification and more doublespeak on this issue, Ben Carson has repeatedly said that the answer is "yes".
What do the facts reveal?
After formal slavery ended, African-Americans suffered under almost 100 years of racial tyranny under a system called Jim and Jane Crow. They were robbed of citizenship and voting rights and subjected to a new type of bondage under debt peonage, convict leasing, and sharecropping laws. Thousands of black men, women, and children were also murdered by spectacular lynchings.
For Ben Carson, Jim and Jane Crow and its horrific racial violence are apparently not as bad as Obama’s healthcare reforms.
Carson is also invoking slavery in order to suggest that expanding healthcare opportunities is a type of “tyranny.”
What does the historical record tell us about white on black chattel slavery?
The enslavement of African-Americans was brutal: it was one of the greatest crimes in human history.
Millions of black people died during the Middle Passage; many millions more were killed by white on black chattel slavery across the Black Atlantic.
In all, white supremacy and racism were a total social system that involved religion, philosophy, science, economics, law, and ethics as it worked to legitimate a social hierarchy that judged "white" people superior to "non-whites".
White supremacy as a social and political system was prefaced on the dehumanization of people of color. Its logic extended to the medical and biological sciences.
"Medical Apartheid" was one of the systems of power that was born from centuries of white supremacy in America. Like slavery, it was cruel and inhumane.
For example, African-Americans were treated without anesthesia. Old, infirm, or "physically unusual" slaves were also sold to medical schools and private doctors for experimentation and study.
In addition, medical schools in the South tried to win students from the North and elsewhere with their promise of access to cadavers and other "subjects", i.e. black Americans, for examination and study.
How were these “subjects” treated?
Black women had their reproductive organs removed or otherwise manipulated by white doctors without the use of pain medication.
The backs of black human property would be cut open so that spinal cords could have boiling water poured on them to experiment with treatments for pneumonia.
African-Americans would be subjected to forced heat stroke in order to see if they could be cured of that affliction. One survivor recounted his experiences as:
...Ordered a hole to be dug in the ground, three feet and a half deep by three feet long, and two feet and a half wide. Into this pit a quantity of dried oak bark was cast, and fire set to it. It was allowed to burn until the pit became heated like an oven, when the embers were taken out. A plank was then put across the bottom of the pit, and on that a stool. Having tested, with a thermometer, the degree to which the pit was heated, the Doctor bade me strip, and get in; which I did, only my head being above the ground. He then gave me some medicine which he had prepared, and as soon as I was on the stool, a number of wet blankets were fastened over the hole, and scantlings laid across them. This was to keep in the heat. It soon began to tell upon me; but though I tried hard to keep up against its effects, in about half an hour I fainted. I was then lifted out and revived, the Doctor taking a note of the degree of heat when I left the pit.
Vivisection by "night doctors" remains alive in the lived memory and oral traditions of African-Americans, where stories have been passed down about the torture and experimentation conducted on black slaves (and others) by white doctors.
The legacies of Medical Apartheid remain today with racially disparate healthcare outcomes and quality of care across the colorline.
Carson's political blackface routine is even more tragic as it involves an African-American betraying his commitment to truth-telling in order to advance the interests of a political party and movement that has neither love nor respect for people of color.
Ben Carson's suggestion that an effort to extend access to healthcare is in any way remotely akin to the enslavement, rape, murder, stolen labor, exploitation, abuse, and cruelty suffered by millions of African-Americans is a scurrilous and abominable lie.
It flattens history.
Moreover, Ben Carson is disrespecting the legacy of his ancestors by legitimating one of the American Right-wing's most popular lies, that African-American slavery "wasn't really that bad".
For all of his medical expertise and genius, Ben Carson is an example of the potent power of Right-wing political excreta to work in a human centipede-like fashion, as disinformation is recycled back and forth among those who live in the closed loop that is the Right-wing echo chamber.
Ben Carson is also a black conservative. There are few more lucrative jobs in American public life. And it is an especially good job if one can secure it...even if said job involves betraying one's professional ethics while eagerly consuming and regurgitating the Republican Party’s political waste at an open trough such as the annual CPAC meeting.