All Skinfolk Ain’t Kinfolk: A Few Words on Ben Carson, Magical Negro

Dr. Ben Carson is a dream candidate for a white supremacist system.    

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson Joshua Lott

Ben Carson wants us to know that he’s a black man, unlike President Barack Obama. He needs voters, white voters in particular, to know that he’s the kind of magical Negro who waved his belt buckle, attacked his friend and his mother, then prayed to white Jesus to get him out of the “ghetto.”

In a recent Politico interview, Carson said Obama was “raised white” and didn’t have the “typical” black experience that he endured. When asked on CNN to expound on that statement, Carson had this to say:

I grew up in Detroit and I grew up in Boston. In Boston, you know, we lived in the ghetto. There were a lot of violent episodes there. There were rats; there were roaches. It was dire poverty. I had a mother that worked starting at 5 in the morning, getting home after midnight, from job to job to job. She didn’t like the idea of being on welfare. Most people said, ‘You got two boys; you can be on aid, two dependent children.’ She didn’t want to do that.

Now let me contrast that to the president. Who went to private schools, who grew up in a relatively affluent environment, had an opportunity to live in multiple cultures in different countries. I think that’s a different experience. …

There’s a difference in breaking the color barrier in somebody who’s had the typical experience and someone who has not. Just because your skin is the same color means you’ve all grown up in the same way doesn’t make any sense.


This is where Carson is correct. Nothing about his deciding to use his black cloak to shield his anti-blackness from exposure makes any sense whatsoever. Even still, I have zero interest in joining Carson in vetting President Obama’s blackness for the titillation of white America, primarily because the two are not dissimilar when it comes to respectability politics parroted in bootstrap speeches and the lie that the United States is an inherently great country—when the truth is that it was built brick by brick on the bloodied and whip-lashed backs of ancestors of “typical” black people.

What I am interested in, however, is the good doctor’s pathologizing of blackness as a key piece of his platform while seemingly expecting us to believe he was screaming “Whuddup doe?” when roaming the streets of Detroit. He has decided that he has transcended the grime and soot of his “typical” black experience in this country in ways that allow him access to success by white America’s standards. Further, he seems to believe that by growing up in this “typical” black experience, he can give us typical, white answers on how to rectify manifestations of typical, white racism.

He has made it his mission to “fight the PC police tooth and nail,” but has very little to say about killers in badges lynching “typical” black people with impunity.

If he is nothing else, that makes Carson a dream candidate for a white supremacist system: a black man who is so enamored with his white-smeared perception of his “typical” blackness that he jokes about police brutality and exhibits a clear failure to even acknowledge that it’s a systemic issue fueled by the very racism that is a twisted pillar used to prop up this country—along with sexism, capitalism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and religious intolerance—all of which the good ol’ boys in the Grand Old Party traffic in as par for the course.