Bill Fletcher Jr.ColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

Dr. Ben Carson and the Lessons from Clarence Thomas

Bill Fletcher says Carson actually goes beyond Justice Thomas in his unusual behavior.
Bill Fletcher says Carson actually goes beyond Justice Thomas in his unusual behavior.

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA Columnist

I will never forget the debate that engulfed Black America at the time of the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court. On the one side was the fact of his conservative record and his not having any semblance of a history as a staunch advocate for African American rights. On the other hand, he was (and remains) genetically a person of African descent. There were those who argued, quite forcefully, that the mere fact of his being genetically a person of African descent should be the deciding factor in whether to support him because, as was argued at the time, the moment that he had the job security of a Supreme Court appointment, African Americans could count on him to do the right thing. How terribly wrong this analysis proved to be.

Since the appointment of Justice Thomas there has been little, if any, indication that his genetic connection to Black America has translated into decisions in favor of Black America. Justice Thomas has repeatedly sided against the interests of the majority of Black America, and actually, he has been quite unapologetic about it.

Which bring us to Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson. I am already hearing those who wish to make excuses for him or to refrain from criticisms. There are those who are so appropriately proud of what he has accomplished as a neurosurgeon that they are—inappropriately—prepared to turn a blind eye to the policies that he advocates, not to mention some of the observations that he has offered. Yet, one does not have to dig too deeply to see that his politics are extremely right-wing and that he is prepared to regularly take stands that deny the extent—if not the reality—of the racist oppression under which Black America continues to exist.

Carson has pleased Fox News and the Tea Party in his condemnation of #BlackLivesMatter and the movement for Black Lives, accusing #BlackLivesMatter of bullying. He has also participated in the demonization of the late Michael Brown, killed by the Ferguson Police. What is that about? He has compared the Affordable Health Act (“Obamacare”) to slavery. How can anyone in their right mind make a comparison between chattel slavery and a piece of legislation that has increased healthcare for more than seventeen million people?

Carson actually goes beyond Justice Thomas in his, let’s say, unusual behavior. It is not just that Carson sides against Black America, but that he also seems to feel that he can say whatever is on his mind. The recent exchange about the Egyptian Pyramids is an example. His conclusion that the Pyramids were built by Joseph for the storing of grain has no scientific basis, yet this Presidential candidate seems to feel unconstrained by science, research, and, indeed, by the truth.

As we get deeper into the election season it is important to keep these points in mind. One can always hope that Dr. Carson rediscovers the realities facing Black America, but the smart money actually suggests the opposite.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

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Bill Fletcher Jr.

Bill Fletcher Jr has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941”; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web.

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