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Dr. Boyce: An open letter to Dr. Ben Carson – great work, but please avoid becoming self-righteous

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Boyce:  An open letter to Dr. Ben Carson – great work, but please avoid becoming self-righteous

Dear Dr. Carson

     I’d like to start off by saying that my mother loves you. The fact is that had she not met my father, I might be your son. You stand as a hero and champion to millions of people for your determined efforts to succeed in a world that is not particularly supportive to young men with objectives as lofty as your own. I respect that.

As my mother blew up my cell phone to tell me how excited she was about the speech you gave at the National Prayer Breakfast, she cited the way you injected God into the conversation in front of a Democratic Party that has removed the word “God” from its party platform. She talked about how your common sense approaches to solving America’s problems were a breath of fresh air, and how your words mimicked the lessons she and the man who raised me have recited to me since I was a child.

My life connects with your own. My mother wasn’t married when she gave birth to me as a 17-year-old girl. My biological father hit the road about five minutes after I took my first breath. My sister spent the early part of her medical career at Johns Hopkins, where you are now the head of Pediatric Surgery. My entire life, I’ve heard stories about you and those stories have always inspired me.

I don’t agree with those who’ve chosen to demonize you for disagreeing with President Barack Obama. Millions of Americans sometimes forget that loving Obama is not always directly correlated with loving the Black community. The president himself has stated that Black unemployment is not going to be a priority of his administration and that the “rising tide will lift all boats,” meaning that broad economic policy should trickle down to the Black community. That trickle has not occurred and old economic wounds have been left to fester: As others have enjoyed a recovery, Black Americans continue to endure the worst economic crisis in the last 40 years, and no one seems to care.

Your views are not in the least bit traitorous, and reflect a large and unrecognized portion of the black community that proudly boasts conservative values. They go to church every Sunday. They don’t want gay marriage to be prioritized above racial inequality. They might not be big fans of abortion and they believe strongly in the merits of personal responsibility. You represent this segment of society and this is part of the reason my mother loves you (as do many of my other Southern Baptist relatives).

But here is my concern. Not only does my mother love you, but Rush Limbaugh also loves you. You say that you’re not affiliated with any major political party, but I don’t believe you. I fully expect that if you enter politics, you will enter as a Republican (that’s how political gang warfare goes – either join the Crips or the Bloods or be killed). The Republican affiliation isn’t a problem in itself, but it does align you with individuals who’ve made it clear that they believe that racial oppression is the result of an inherent inferiority among people of color and deny their own responsibility in supporting disparate policies that have maintained America’s oppressive sociological infrastructure.

     One example is the link between economic despair and the breakdown of the Black family in America. You cite this connection in your interviews, but you seem determined to only focus on one side of the story. You seem to think that Black people believe it’s fashionable to become baby’s mamas and that fathers don’t want to take care of their kids. The easy way to describe the breakdown of the family is to believe that Black people are simply ignorant and misguided fools. Maybe around 1970, we just all decided that we don’t want our fathers in the home because two parents were no longer cool. There are some who believe that Black men love their children less than white men do. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

     As you discuss the breakdown of the Black family as one of the causes of economic inequality, I sincerely hope that you’ll also mention clear, documented and undeniable racial disparities in policies that relate to mass incarceration. The 100-to-1 crack-to-powder disparity, conjoined with the ready availability of guns in urban communities were no accident and have led to many Black communities being turned into absolute war zones. The simultaneous loss of economic and educational opportunities further supported an underground drug economy that led to millions of lives being tragically impacted through incarceration, homicide and addiction. Our schools are severely underfunded, our businesses can’t get financing, and corporations don’t hire us as quickly as the white guy across town. This is an empirical fact.

     I hope that as a fellow scientist, you can appreciate the idea that we can’t discuss one side of an equation without considering the other. It is unconscionable and even racist to discuss the breakdown of Black families without talking about the role we have as a society for correcting the mass incarceration epidemic and supporting policies that improve educational and economic opportunities at the same time. Even Black business owners can’t get capital for job creation because for 400 years, whites were allowed to accumulate the vast majority of the wealth in this country. We need to stop buying into the idea that Black people put themselves in this situation, when all evidence points to the contrary: The bottom line is that policies do matter, and it’s tough for some to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” when we have policies deliberately designed to rob them of their boots.

     Dr. Carson, here’s the deal: You are the chosen one. Your brilliance is legendary and your achievements are phenomenal. But the fact is that if you and your single mother had been growing up in the Englewood neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, most indicators predict that you would not be at Johns Hopkins right now, and you’d probably be dead or in prison.

     Perhaps you would have had the discipline to avoid all of the hurdles in front of you, like inferior schools, violence on every corner, and virtually no economic opportunities. But the fact is that every single day, a young Ben Carson is shot and killed on his way to school by one of the kids in the neighborhood who found it all too easy to get his hands on an AK-47 and a pound of weed to go with it. This is not 1958 anymore, and life is not a fairytale for young Black men. While phenomenal focus and determination is certainly a way to rise above the madness around them, we can’t fault poor black kids for not being as intelligent and determined as Dr. Ben Carson.

     So, Dr. Carson, I encourage you not to take your blessings for granted. You are special, no doubt. But your opportunities exist for you to uplift others, not to tell them why they aren’t as smart as you are. I hope that you will keep this in mind when Rush Limbaugh (a recovering drug addict who once said drug addicts should go to prison) begs you to be a guest on his show, or when you become tempted to recite perceived Black cultural abnormalities as the sole cause of racial inequality.

     With that being said, you have my respect. As Laurel Thatcher-Ulrich once said, “Great women (or men) are rarely well behaved.” The fact that you were willing to break protocol to say what you believe is nothing less than a brilliant representation of American liberty. You should continue to speak your version of the truth and I would love to see you advance your political career. I just hope you are careful, thoughtful and courageous with your new found power; people are depending on you.


Dr. Boyce Watkins

     Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Black American Money”. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. Please join Dr. Watkins and Min. Louis Farrakhan for a summit on “Wealth, Education, Family and Community: A New Paradigm for Black America” to be held in Chicago on March 30. You can RSVP by clicking here.



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