Dear Ben Carson, When A Person Has to Deny Being an Uncle Tom, It Usually Means They Are One
Ben Carson, the Tea Party GOP Mandingo, has taken time away from his busy anointing tour as the newest Black Champion for the Right--and also issuing letters of marque, as well as absolution to his white conservative supporters--in order to address the accusation that he is an Uncle Tom.
On Fox News, in classic black conservative talking-point form, Ben Carson channeled the ugly allusion that "he is not on a plantation" and "can think for himself." This is the same internalized racism for the benefit, amusement, and psychological validation of racially chauvinistic Conservative Whiteness that Herman Cain, Jessie Patterson, and other black conservatives have been channeling for the amusement of their overlords and masters for at least a decade.
The suggestion that black people who choose to support the Democratic Party are "on a plantation" is ugly and indefensible. No other group has its political decision-making maligned in such a way, where a political choice is linked to the charnel and death houses that were plantation life during the slaveocracy in the United States and across the Black Atlantic.
Our Jewish brothers and sisters who have made the political choice to support the Democratic Party are not greeted with the accusation that "they are stuck in a Death Camp" and those who "escape" to the Republican Party are by comparison "liberated." Poor white people who support the Republican Party against their own material self-interest also do not have their capacity for common sense and independent thought maligned as a matter of routine by media and political elites on a national stage.
Such ill-treatment is uniquely reserved for African-Americans. Our citizenship and national belonging are always viewed as contingent and suspect. History's ironies are great: in America there is no more an "American" people than black folks (and our First Nations Brothers and Sisters). We are America. But the "real America" white blood and soil herrenvolk types have a very hard time accepting that fact, as for them, to be "truly" American means to be "free, white, and twenty-one." No other groups need apply. Such attitudes are at the core of symbolic and conservative colorblind racism in the Age of Obama
Ben Carson's tired suggestion that black people who are Democrats are "slaves" on a plantation is part of a racist political imaginary wherein free blacks and others were imagined as child-like, not fit for freedom, and whose race made them incompatible with democracy. African-Americans fought for and took their liberty in a freedom struggle which lasted for centuries. This monumental freedom struggle has served as an inspiration for people around the world.
Ben Carson's success and opportunities stand on the shoulders of those honored ancestors: he smites them, spitting in the face of their legacy, every time he regurgitates the Right-wing talking point that African-Americans are on a "plantation" called the Democratic Party.
Black Conservatives move from holding positions of principled political difference, and crossing over to being human props and mascots for the White Right, when they disparage the political decision-making of other black folks. To the degree that Black Conservatives have any sense of linked fate with other African-Americans--I would suggest that from the post Reagan era forward, such a sense of connection is very much in doubt--they could give a reasonable answer that does not mock other black people's wisdom, common sense, or political values.
For example, Ben Carson and other black conservatives, when prompted for the obligatory "demean other black people and show us how you are 'special'" moment by the Right-wing media could offer the following answer: "The majority of African-Americans, for their own reasons, have made a different choice regarding what political party to support. For my own reasons, I have chosen to be a Republican."
In a political moment when the Tea Party GOP has embraced a range of racially hostile policies and beliefs from Birtherism, to the open racial resentment of Romney's campaign, the naked discussion of Secession and a revitalization of the Neo-Confederacy, and efforts to suppress the votes of African-Americans in a return to Jim and Jane Crow, how any person of color--or sensible conservative--could support such a dying on the death bed demographically and ideologically obsolescent political organization defies explanation or logic to me.
Perhaps Ben Carson and his black conservative brethren are proverbial political kamikazes or dead enders? Regardless, his decision-making process and agency should be respected...even as the policies which he advocates for should be critically interrogated and challenged.
Ultimately, there are many ways to call a black person a "nigger." Some folks are direct, they avoid the silly-talk that is "the n-word." In your face they mutter or aim the slur.
Others using the political correct language of post-civil rights America talk about how black folks have "bad culture" and "could succeed if they only really wanted to and tried hard."
And there are black conservatives, along with their white sponsors and circus masters, who say that black people are "stuck on a plantation." Moreover, these special and anointed black conservatives are apparently uniquely positioned to interpret the drums and what the natives are really saying.
All of these examples are just myriad ways of calling black people "niggers." One can tell black people "to get the bones out their noses" like Rush Limbaugh did some years ago. Or you can have a black conservative say that other African-Americans are stupid children who are political zombies, unfit for democracy. Both proceed from the same fetid waters: to call a black person a "nigger" is to suggest that they are a second class citizen, not an equal, and somehow racially defective as compared to some ideal-type as defined by the White Gaze.
The racial chauvinism of the White Right and the Tea Party GOP makes sense as a function of crude realpolitik: the Republican Party is the party of the Southern Strategy and has embraced white racial resentment as part of its brand-name in the post civil rights era. Anti-black and brown affect is part of a political calculus that has until recently paid Republicans great political dividends.
When black conservatives echo this same logic it is contemptible and tragic. Self-hatred is pathetic. Self-hatred in the service of political attention, fame, or fortune from being the star attraction in a Right-wing human zoo by black and brown conservatives even more so.