African Americans: Which Ben Carson Legacy Should We Embrace?



( On November 18th former President Donald Trump announced his third consecutive presidential campaign making him the first major political figure to declare their candidacy for the 2024 election. He is the first former president in U.S. history to have a criminal referral from the House of Representatives sent to the Department of Justice. While every president takes a sworn oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, Trump is the first former president to call for “termination” of the Constitution. Add to the list the fact that his family’s real estate business, the Trump Organization, was recently found guilty of a tax fraud scheme.

One should easily see how the facts are there to expose and confirm the former president’s corrupt behavior and character. Yet millions of voters will passionately support him in 2024, while others will gladly serve in a second Trump administration. It is a reflection of a politically and morally divided nation where people will reject the personal and political corruption of a leader while others are drawn to it like a magnet. Ethics and moral principles cannot always compete with political power. Therefore, many in the Republican Party may seek to cut ties with Trump not because of ethics, but due to the disappointing election results in the midterms.

Often plagued by controversy, scandal, firings and resignations, the Trump administration experienced one of the highest personnel turnover rates of any presidential administration in recent history. James Mattis, who resigned as Secretary of Defense, cited differences between himself and the president in a letter to Trump stating his intentions to leave. John Kelly, a retired Marine Crops general, was hired as chief of staff to bring order to the Trump White House but ended up clashing with the president and eventually resigning. The January 6 attack on the Capitol building by a pro-Trump mob forced a number of Trump officials to question their roles within the administration. The self-reflection by many officials resulted in a wave of resignations by cabinet members, White House staffers, Melania Trump’s chief of staff, FAA appointees, representatives from the National Security Council along with members of the Commerce and State Departments.

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Elaine Chao, who served as Transportation Secretary and is the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, was the first cabinet member to resign in protest. She was followed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “We should be highlighting and celebrating your administration’s many accomplishments on behalf of the American people. Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business,” DeVos wrote in her resignation letter addressed to the president. “That behavior was unconscionable for our country,” she continued. “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.” Colin Powell never served in the Trump administration, but as a Republican he spoke up and separated himself from Trump and Trumpism.

When Powell spotted racism, he took a stand. He was the first Black secretary of State as well as the youngest chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, under former President George H.W. Bush, and the first Black national security advisor, under former President Ronald Reagan. As a Black Republican, he reminded the nation that Black Americans are not monolithic in their thinking. Although there were times members throughout the Black community disagreed with Powell, he remained well respected because he was a man who followed his conscience ahead of political ambitions. Personally, I would have liked to see the former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson follow Chao and DeVos in submitting his resignation. Carson often speaks about his faith and Christian values. Therefore, it would seem appropriate if he followed Colin Powell’s example in taking a moral stand against those in the Republican Party who became enablers of Trump’s corruption and wrong-doing.

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As shocking as it may be, the Detroit School Board voted to change the name of the Benjamin Carson High School of Medicine and Science. The move taken by school board members was in response to complaints from the community about its namesake’s connections to the Trump administration. Not all students were in favor of the name change. Ninth grader Kenya Powell didn’t know about Carson’s legacy before attending the school, but said he’s heard from his peers and students at the school about Carson’s medical accomplishments and he opposes the change. Should we embrace Dr. Ben Carson’s legacy as a world-renowned neurosurgeon and role model to Black youth or reject it because of his political legacy as HUD secretary?

Truthfully, the Dr. Ben Carson story is a part of Black history, and is featured in an exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. The story highlights how a young Carson from inner city Detroit rose up to earn a full scholarship to Yale University and eventually became one of the highest-profile surgeons in the world. It is a story about old fashion home training. The inspiring journey of a single mom working multiple jobs and instilling in her two sons the value of hard work, commitment to reading, perseverance and faith highlights the significant role of the family in developing a student of any background. While the community’s disappointment and frustration with Ben Carson the politician is understandable and justified, I have to agree with the ninth grader.

Written by David W. Marshall

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