Ben Carson's desperate, last ditch play of the "race card": President Obama is not authentically black because "he was raised white"

"He did not grow up in black America, he grew up in white America"

By Sophia Tesfaye
February 23, 2016 9:31PM (UTC)
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Ben Carson (AP/Andrew Harnik)

Yet again, a Republican presidential candidate is defying conventional political norms and undermining supposedly long held conservative values in order to further personal ambitions. This time it is retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson who, desperate to keep his name in the headlines to avoid becoming the latest also-ran, is now suggesting that the nation's first black President could not possibly live the authentic black experience because he "was raised white."

Carson, of course, has long dismissed race as divisive on the campaign trail while he used Christianity to warm his way into the hearts of evangelical voters in Iowa. But as his campaign has floundered, Carson has shown no hesitation in playing Republican's favorite proverbial "race card" to make a last ditch play for supporters in South Carolina -- airing ads against affirmative action and decrying the "crisis" of black crime aimed at the 96 percent White Republican electorate. However, Carson finished last in South Carolina. Now, he's set his feeble aim on President Obama.


Carson's latest ridiculous contention came during an interview with Politico's Glenn Thrush released on Tuesday. Agreeing with Thrush's suggestion of nuance, Carson said that the President is "an ‘African’ American," referring to Obama's Kenyan father.

"He was, you know, raised white,” Carson added, elaborating on the distinctions between their two upbringings. Carson was raised by a single, African-American mother in Detroit.

"Many of his formative years were spent in Indonesia," Carson said of Obama, adding that "he didn't grow up like I grew up."


“Remember now, I’ve been around for 64 years, you know,” he added in contrast. “I’ve had a chance to see what real racism is.”

"I mean, like most Americans, I was proud that we broke the color barrier when he was elected, but ... for him to, you know, claim that, you know, he identifies with the experience of black Americans, I think, is a bit of a stretch," Carson claimed.

Carson goes on to repeat his denials that he has ever experienced any racism in the Republican Party, arguing instead that "I think the way that I'm treated, you know, by the left is racism."


"Because they assume because you're black, you have to think a certain way. And if you don't think that way, you're 'Uncle Tom,' you're worthy of every horrible epithet they can come up with; whereas, if I weren't black, then I would just be a Republican."

Defending his statement about President Obama on NBC later Tuesday morning, Carson said he was merely responding to Thrush's question but went on to affirm that Obama "did not grow up in black america, he grew up in white america."


For the very little that it is worth, Carson's supporters, of course, deny their candidate has abandoned supposed conservative ideals in favor of playing the "race card."

“I don’t think race plays into it at all,” Dave Thomas, a 65-year-old sales manager in South Carolina, told The Atlantic. Carson’s success, he said, “proves that if you work hard and stay out of trouble, you can succeed, no matter who you are or where you come from.”

Listen to Carson's complete interview below:


Carson: Pope 'Entitled to' Own Opinion on Trump

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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