All signs have pointed to Ben Carson becoming the next Housing and Urban Development secretary under President-elect Donald Trump, and he has officially accepted.. The retired surgeon and former Republican presidential candidate previously told the Washington Post that he would not accept a position in Trump's cabinet "unless [Trump] absolutely needs me." Additionally, Carson's friend Armstrong Williams told The Hill that Carson believes he lacks the political experience to run a federal agency. Apparently, Carson has reconsidered his previous statements, and with this new position on the horizon, it's important to look at Carson's views on race. Update: On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Carson had accepted the position. Later Wednesday, Carson said the paper had misquoted his spokesperson, and that Carson had not made a decision.
He took to Twitter on Wednesday to hint that he would be accepting the cabinet position. As HUD secretary, a position currently held by Julian Castro, Carson would be responsible for advising the president on issues of homeownership and affordable housing. He explained his qualifications for the position during an interview with Fox News on Tuesday night. He cited the fact that he grew up in inner-city Detroit, adding that "we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities," which he said are "in terrible shape."
Carson's lack of political experience along with his strong views against government overreach will make for an interesting, to say the least, tenure as HUD secretary. Equally pertinent (if not more) will be Carson's views on race. Throughout his campaign, Trump equated "inner cities" with black and brown Americans. Considering the role of HUD secretary, how Carson sees race and racial and ethnic minorities in America will play a huge part in the decisions he makes in regards to affordable housing and homeownership initiatives. And his ideas on race and racism in America are interesting, to say the least.
As the below quotes illustrate, Carson seeks to deemphasize the role race plays in problems plaguing racial minority communities across the country:
He Thinks Obama Isn't Really Black
In an interview with Politico's "Off Message" podcast back in February, Carson said that Obama was "raised white" adding, "Many of his formative years were spent in Indonesia. So, for him to, you know, claim that, you know, he identifies with the experience of black Americans, I think, is a bit of a stretch." In essence, Carson is saying Obama isn't really black.
He Thinks Racism Today Is Not "Real Racism"
In the same Politico podcast interview, in discussing Ferguson and Freddie Gray, Carson said that racism today is not comparable to racism experienced by previous generations of African Americans. He told listeners, "Remember now, I’ve been around for 64 years, you know. I’ve had a chance to see what real racism is."
He Thinks The Black Lives Matter Movement Is Misguided
In a 2015 USA Today column, Carson wrote:
The 'BlackLivesMatter' movement is focused on the wrong targets, to the detriment of blacks who would like to see real change and to the benefit of its powerful white liberal funders using the attacks on Sanders for political purposes that mean nothing for the problems that face our community.
He goes on to say that "racial policing" should not be the focus of black activists, but rather the reform of inner city schools and the boycotting of an entertainment industry that profits off demonizing and demeaning black people. He also calls on African Americans to speak out against the Democratic Party, writing:
We don't want a plan to give us public housing in nice neighborhoods. We want an end to excuses for schools that leave us without the means to buy our own houses where we choose to live. We want the skills needed to compete, not a consolation prize of Section 8, Food Stamps and a lifetime of government paperwork.
This statement hints at what Carson's priorities could be as HUD director.
He's Said Police Brutality Isn't Really About Race
In a 2014 Fox News debate between Carson and Jesse Jackson, Carson said that police brutality in Ferguson, specifically the murder of Michael Brown, was a much bigger issue than just racism and had more to do with how young people are raised:
And if you take race out of the issue altogether, and you take a group of young men and you raise them with no respect for authority, not learning to take on personal responsibility, having easy access to drugs and alcohol, they're very likely to end up as victims of violence or incarceration. It has nothing to do with race. So, yes, is there racism? Are there problems? Yes. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But we need to start looking at bigger issues here.
He Has Compared Obamacare to Slavery
In 2013, in a speech to the Values Voter Summit, Carson spoke out against Obamacare in the worst possible way, saying:
You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.
Carson's past comments reveal a dangerous lack of understanding of racism in America today, which means his new position as HUD secretary could leave him distanced from the exact people he'd need to help most.