Ben Carson and the house negro game

Some look at Ben Carson, one of the Republican candidates for president, as showcasing a supine scientific ignorance that should be surprising, given his great medical acumen. I do not give him the benefit of the doubt: he is the worst of the false prophets.
The more I see of Carson, the more he evokes the image of Stephen, the character played by Samuel L. Jackson in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. A well-rehearsed game he is playing. Four scenes from the film showcase the double role and double speak of house negroes.
We first encounter Stephen as he is welcoming his master, Calvin, and overly subserviently arguing with him about the impropriety of allowing the nigger Django to stay in the house. Calvin makes clear he is the one who makes the rules, and Stephen reluctantly acquiesces. All this after we have seen Calvin order a slave to be torn to piece by a pack of dogs.
In the diner scene, physically shrinking, Stephen almost begs Calvin to come see him for a moment. Right now. Calvin apologizes to his guests for his slave’s impudence and incapacity to deal with the most menial of tasks, such as dessert selection, without his master’s help. “Oh, a white man’s burden,” his face seems to say.
Then, we see Calvin entering the library – a familial setting of power we recognize from the entire history of cinema – to encounter, without the slightest surprise, Stephen seating at a big, iconic chair, powerfully, whiskey in hand, tall and self-possessed. Stephen then proceeds to admonish Calvin for being made a fool. Role playing is over, since neither the guests nor the other slaves for whom the charade is intended are present. We know who the brain is.
Lastly, after Calvin’s death, Stephen goes to where Django is held and dismisses, by orders of the Mistress of the house, the henchman who was about to cut Django’s balls off. Now, Stephen speaks directly and alone with Django, and pretense is again dispensed with. He recognizes a match, a hated one, but an equal. He mocks the whites’ ideas of torturing Django by doing various things to his masculine parts; and tells how all the time he kept saying that slaves in the mine had it worse than that. Then, sarcastically, adds that, what do you know, all of the sudden they had the bright idea of selling Django to the mine. Essentially laughing of how easy it is to plant an idea on those white people and make them think it is theirs.
There is a reason why house negroes, which should be just a descriptor of working conditions, in opposition to field negroes, has a distinctly pejorative meaning among the black community. Actually, when we now refer to house negroes we are saying little or nothing about their locus of work. We allude to the fact that they played a role in supporting the existing structures of power that kept them doing a bit better than the rest. Their support could have been passive or, as in the case of Stephen, essential by turning their feigned complicity with their supposed peers into their peers’ compliance, and running a tighter ship than white masters alone could.
Our Uncle Ben plays that part with classicist overtones. He offers himself not as a role model but as a talking point for the right, while knowing full well the concrete limits of that discourse. But, even after considering how his pretense harms the black community, nothing is to me more despicable than his stance against science.
He uses his scientific credentials to deride science, particularly in areas in which he has no credence. He does that by counting on the facts that his audience is predisposed to such “truths;” will use his credentials as validation of such “truths;” and believes those “truths,” because it is, at best, scientifically ill-educated, such as many of his fellow Seventh-Day Adventists in 2012.
What he is doing is dishonest in every possible way because he is not only counting on that ignorance, but fanning its mind-scorching flames. As soon as he is confronted on the facts, he says: “I’m not going to denigrate you because of your faith, and you shouldn’t denigrate me for mine.” (Let’s ignore for a second that came from the mouth of the most bigoted man against Muslims.) Obviously, a factual scientific discussion is the same as a discussion of faith, right? He couldn’t debate scientists on any of this because he could not stand one round. But he has learned who to pander to and knows a little misinformation combined with a drop or two of confirmation bias is a never-fail recipe.
Somebelieve he is actually ignorant of these matters, and is just posing and feigning knowledge. But given his timid acquiescence in the face of an attack on vaccines, which one may think a doctor knows something about, I firmly believe he is just like his rival Ted Cruz, a hypocrite that would not mind spreading ignorance to pocket votes. As a doctor, I suggest at least on the discussion of vaccines, Carson would do well to remember the Hippocratic Oath.
He mocks science he doesn’t understand and purposefully misrepresents the one he does. I am willing to bet he was not peddling that devil-encouraged-evolution garbage when he was applying for positions as surgeon or publishing on scientific journals…when he was facing what he thought were his equals, there was neither point no reward for pretending. But he knows well when it is time for a little shuckin’ and jivin’.

DISCLAIMER: These are my personal views and do not represent the opinions of my employer, or any other organization.

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