WASHINGTON, May 13, 2015 – Former Attorney General Eric Holder called me a coward for not talking about race. He didn’t say that to my face of course, but he meant it—and I took it—personally. OK, let’s talk about race. I am not “white.” I am not “a white man.” Milk, paper and bird poop are white. I am of Northern European ancestry (Irish/English). So what?
The current president and the man I support for next president happen to be of at least partial African descent. Again, so what? The most visual distinction between us is the least important. I do not think of them as being “black,” or “blacks,” or “black men.” Like so many words thrown about, these terms have become condescending, objectivizing, divisive tools of demagoguery. Race is no more justifiable or definable now as a political classification than when Southerners and Nazis tried it. Yet it permeates our public discourse and our government regulations. It detracts from real problems, and usually makes things worse.
Race and ancestry had nothing to do with why I did not vote for Obama. My support for Dr. Ben Carson for president also has little to do with his ancestry.
Like most Americans, I was pleased that a man of African descent was elected, not because it was revolutionary but because it was so easy, demonstrating how far we have come in overcoming prejudice and realizing founding principles.
I would not try to separate anyone from his ancestry any more than I would wish to be separated from mine. It is part of who we are. Cultural heritage is important. However, I do not judge people on that basis. I judge them, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, on the content of their character.
Carson speaks to my mind and to my heart. Obama surely does not.
Our recent and most important past is a shared heritage as Americans. Anybody can be an American in spirit because this society was founded on principles of equality and freedom, not on ethnicity, religion, geography or tribalism. That is exceptional. And we are all equally beloved of God. If we lose those common principles, America ceases to exist and tyranny triumphs.
But that does not mean that our more distant heritage is irrelevant. Unfortunately, many citizens approach current controversies by squeezing people into black and white or other meaningless boxes, and then applying generalizations—prejudices—to those categories before or in lieu of examining the facts. The situation in Ferguson is an excellent example of this pigeonholing. Conclusions are preordained and often disastrously wrong. “Minority” and “majority” are equally ubiquitous and counterproductive political categorizations.
“Leaders” who shout such generalizations frequently do so to evoke emotion—anger, envy, fear, hate, greed—in followers while discrediting opponents. Emotion always is easier and quicker than thought. As a survival mechanism, emotion elicits fight or flight physical responses that preclude reason. So, such terminology works wonderfully for the politics of obfuscation, polarization, victimization and personal destruction in which so many specialize.
That is what Eric Holder did when he called me a coward, and that is what Obama does consistently. One of the more egregious of the president’s many lies is that he promised to unite, not divide, us. Carson, a brilliant, compassionate man—and a true leader—really will unite us.
Few aspects of human history are more consistent than prejudice toward, conflict with, and enslavement of “the other.” The only thing remarkable about the black-white distinction is that it provided such a convenient visual mechanism for enforcing these predilections. In some quarters it still does, often in the service of political power and wealth.
One faddish response to past prejudice has been to simply reverse it. The once-common conviction among European-Americans that Africans were inferior is now presumably corrected with the presumption that descendants of those that held that conviction are themselves inferior—burdened by so-called “white privilege.” That is plain stupid, and it is being pounded into our children’s heads by a thoroughly politicized and intellectually corrupt educational establishment.
The issue really isn’t black and white. But perhaps fellow citizens who would not be inclined to listen to people of my ancestry, but might listen to Carson because of his, will give him a chance. In that respect, his heritage is highly relevant to—and unique to—the coming contest. Because our differences in ancestry are trivial, but our shared values are transcendent, I think that would be a very good thing. That is what I would say to them given the opportunity.
Listen to Ben Carson. You might agree with him more than with our current president and his followers. I sure do.