He Wears the Mask: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Ben Carson
More: He Wears the Mask
The present darling of the right wing, Dr. Benjamin Carson, is a distinguished neurosurgeon who went from the depths of Detroit poverty to the heights of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. But his current status among conservatives isn’t so much rooted in Carson’s redemptive rise from rags to respectability, as it is in the belief that he is, in the long winter of Obama, the one they’ve been waiting for.
Last week, Carson came under attack for comparing advocates of same-sex marriage with advocates of bestiality and the North American Man/Boy Love Association. He then cast himself as a victim of political correctness, besieged by white liberals — “the most racist people there are” — who could not countenance his heterodoxy and wanted to keep him on the “plantation.”
The plantation metaphor refers to a popular theory on the right. It holds that the 95 percent of African-Americans who voted for a Democratic president are not normal Americans voting their beliefs, but slaves. A corollary to the plantation theory is the legend of the Conservative Black Hope, a lonesome outsider, willing to stare down the party of Obamacare and stand up for the party of voter ID. Does it matter that this abolitionist truth-teller serves at the leisure of an audience that is overwhelmingly white? Not really. Blacks are brainwashed slaves; you can’t expect them to know what’s in their interest.