By Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III
“You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery… 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.”
– Dr. Ben Carson October 11, 2013
Dr. Ben Carson is a world-renowned American neurosurgeon. He is a brilliant physician with an incredibly compelling and motivational story. Born into poverty in Detroit in 1951 and raised by a single mother with a third-grade education, Carson became the first surgeon to separate conjoined twins and the youngest to head a surgical department. His focus, work ethic and commitment to excellence should be emulated by as many as possible.
Over the past year Dr. Carson has emerged on the political scene as a spokesperson for conservative interests. Most recently he addressed the 2013 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., making the remarks referenced above.
“Obamacare” or more accurately the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the worst thing in this nation since slavery? Really? I understand political diatribes and hyperbole but the worst thing in America since slavery? How can reducing the number of uninsured Americans through an expansion of Medicaid and the creation of new health insurance exchange marketplaces be worse than slavery?
The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in America except as punishment for a crime in 1865. Since then, African Americans have been lynched, had their farms confiscated, been denied the right to vote and have had limited or no access to public and private facilities. For an African American of Dr. Carson’s intellect and stature to publically make such assertions is historically inaccurate, irresponsible and promotes many of the racist stereotypes that are being used to garner support to overturn the law.
Does Dr. Carson really believe that the ACA is worse than the Tuskegee syphilis experiment of 1932? To trace the natural progression of untreated syphilis, the U.S. Public Health Service conducted this infamous clinical study on 399 African American men from 1932 to 1972. These human “laboratory animals” thought they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government. By the end of the experiment, 28 of the men had died directly of syphilis, 100 were dead of related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected and 19 of their children had been born with congenital syphilis.
Would Dr. Carson have us believe that the ACA is worse than the government sanctioned, racially motivated attack on the Greenwood district of Tulsa Oklahoma in 1921? The Greenwood district of Tulsa, also know as Black Wall Street, was the wealthiest African American community in America. During a 16 hour period from May 31 and June 1, 1921 whites rioted, attacked the community and burned it to the ground based upon the rumor that an African American shoeshiner named Dick Roland touched a white female elevator operator named Sarah Page.
An estimated 10,000 African American residents were left homeless and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire. The official death count by the Oklahoma Department of Vital Statistics was 39, but other estimates of African American fatalities have been up to about 300.
From 1920 – 1970 the state of North Carolina forcibly sterilized more than 7,600 women. Most of these women were poor and African American. This eugenics program began as a means to control the birth rates of poor white woman and quickly expanded as an attack on African American woman. Women were sterilized like cats and dogs are spayed and neutered. Dr. Carson wants us to believe that the ACA is worse than this?
As Carson is being promoted in conservative political circles as an informed spokesman on the talk circuit he has quickly become a political minstrel show. He’s jumping Jim Crow. Jump Jim Crow is a song and dance that was performed in blackface by a white comedian named Thomas Dartmouth around 1830, the early minstrel era of American entertainment. It lampooned African Americans as dim-witted, lazy, and buffoonish. The expression to Jump Jim Crow came to mean “to act like a stereotyped stage caricature of a black person” usually by a White person.
Dr. Carson has once again put his black face on political ideology that is contrary to the interests of the African American community and validates denigrating stereotypes perpetuated by its enemies. Earlier this year Carson told a CPAC audience “Nobody is starving on the streets (of America). We have always taken care of them. We have churches, which actually are much better mechanisms for taking care of the poor because they are right there with them. This is one of the reasons we give tax breaks to churches…”
He is lending his voice and using his personal narrative to validate the conservative “blame the poor” political agenda and undermine the social safety net in America. The argument is that the Carson’s of the world have overachieved in spite of the odds; therefore, the inability of the poor (stereotypically the “Black poor”) in America to rise into the middle class or beyond is due to personal failure, lack of drive, initiative, and dependence upon the government. Carson made it; why can’t they?
The ACA is far from perfect. The flaws in the legislation will be flushed out and addressed over time or it will die a natural death. How the Obama administration allowed the government web site to go live without beta testing, anticipating the problems and without immediate fixes for them is at least irresponsible. These issues should not invalidate the reality that providing access to health care coverage for more Americans is a good thing.
As a physician Dr. Ben Carson should know better. If he has problems with the ACA he should present his issues using accurate data and facts; not baseless political ideology and foolish hyperbole.
Dr. Carson’s stature in the medical community makes his comments even more reckless. Even reasonable but uninformed people might try to find truth in his words. He is allowing the reputation that he has earned based upon his stellar professional accomplishments, focus, work ethic, and commitment to excellence as a surgeon to be used as a front by white ultra-conservatives. He is attempting to undermine greater access to health care and other social programs; the social safety net that is needed now more than ever before.
He’s a pitiful one-man minstrel show. He’s Jumpin’ Jim Crow.
Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the Sirisu/XM Satellite radio channel 110 call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon” Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email:[email protected]. www.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com © 2013 InfoWave Communications, LLC