Ben Carson downplays the Confederate flag

At the 2013 Republican state convention, Virginia Republicans nominated African-American reverend E.W. Jackson as their candidate for Lieutenant Governor. When one (white) supporter was asked why he liked Jackson, the man replied, “He doesn’t see race.”

As opposed to all of those black Democrats, who did see race…the wrong way.

This kind of racial subtext was baked into Reverend Jackson’s campaign. He built his state profile by campaigning hard against the social safety net and abortion, which he wove into the increasingly-familiar narrative asserting that the “Democrat Party” has been using the tools of government to oppress black people — not through the police state, the War on Drugs and the denial of access to housing and the ballot, but rather through welfare dependency and outright genocide. It’s an ugly trick, but it’s a neat one if you want to convince a big group of pasty-white Republicans that they aren’t racist.

Fast forward to 2015, and you see Ben Carson is doing the same thing. He just doesn’t yell into the camera as loudly as Jackson did.

Asked about Richard Petty’s description of the summer’s debate over the Confederate flag as a “passing fancy” while appearing with the former NASCAR star in North Carolina yesterday, Carson compared the flag to the Swastika…by downplaying the significance of both.

From TalkingPointsMemo:

“Swastikas are a symbol of hate for some people, too. And yet they still exist in museums and places like that,” Carson said, describing the decision about flying the flag “a local issue.” ”If it’s a majority of people in that area who want it to fly, I certainly wouldn’t take it down.”

Carson wasn’t asked the followup question as to whether he would be fine with a community’s decision so fly the Nazi flag if a majority of that community’s residents wanted to.

Either way, the signal there is clear: To the white Republican worried about “heritage” and “states’ rights,” Ben Carson “doesn’t see race.”

Just ask this one maybe-Carson supporter (again from TPM, emphasis added):

Julie Lopp, whose family owns Lexington Barbecue, where Carson and his team stopped for lunch Monday, said Trump is “a little bit too extreme.”

She said she was still learning about Carson, but would likely support him or former technology executive Carly Fiorina in the Republican primary. “I just think he’s honest,” she said of Carson.

She also suggested there were white southerners who probably wouldn’t support Carson because of his race.

“As much as people try to sound like they don’t care, some people think a black president will look out for the black lifestyle,” said Lopp, who worked in Lexington Barbecue for the last 36 years, adding that women like Fiorina would likely face discrimination from some voters as well.

Lopp is presumably unaware of just how abundantly racist her insistence that she isn’t a racist is. She might as well have said, “Not voting for Carson because he’s black? You silly racist. Don’t you know that he doesn’t see race? He won’t just look out for his kind; he’ll be the president for you and me everybody! Not like Barack Hussein Obama, no sir.” If you’re parrying your friends’ concerns about your candidate by telling them not to worry because he’s “one of the good ones,” it’s time to pause and reflect.

But this is exactly the frame Carson is setting by railing against “dependency” while warning that “One of the reasons you find most [Planned Parenthood] clinics in black neighborhoods is so you can find a way to control that population.” Coupled with his “I’m okay if you’re okay” stance on the Confederate flag, it appears that a large part of Carson’s appeal is his subtle reassurances to Republicans that all of their racial talking points aren’t actually that racist.

Unless we’re talking about Muslims. Then a bit of overt bigotry is totally fine:


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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6 Responses to “Ben Carson downplays the Confederate flag”

  1. Badgerite says:

    If he is comparing the Confederate flag to the Nazi Swastika, well, that works for me.
    They are equally deplorable. The only real museum I can think of where it might be appropriate to show the Nazi Swastika would be the National Holocaust Museum. The two are intertwined and cannot be separated. The same can be said for the Confederate flag and the institution of slavery in this country and its lingering effects.

  2. ComradeRutherford says:

    And Hanuman, my fav, the monkey god.

    The princess heard hanuman and his monkey army tearing up the orchard. She went and asked ‘You are a fearsome god, what are you doing?’ He said, “isn’t this what monkeys are supposed to do???’

  3. Indigo says:

    and Shiva and Vishnu and Rama and Ganesha and many times the major players in the entire pantheon. It’s fascinating how they do that.

  4. ComradeRutherford says:

    ANd everywhere in India are ‘Public Carriers’, large flatbed trucks that you can hire to move things. They have large signboards above the cabs with the owner’s name and contact info and many of them are adorned with swastikas.

  5. ComradeRutherford says:

    Hey, what’s the big deal? That flag represents the proud America tradition of white supremacy and the natural place of black people as slaves. How is that wrong?

  6. Indigo says:

    The trouble with those kinds of conversation is that they start in ignorance and end where they started. The tilted swastika is emblematic of the Nazi social movement but the swastika itself, squared horizontal, is an ancient Hindu logo of the sun and an enduring symbol of the Buddha, used on many Asian maps to indicate the location of Buddhist temples. It’s very common to see statues of the Buddha with swastikas on the palms of the feet and hands and sometimes on the chest. Answering Carson’s pathetic remarks with incomplete information does not deepen the understanding of anything.

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