Many are upset Dr. Ben Carson came out as a conservative. (Carson Scholars Fund)
Dr. Ben Carson is a Black History month staple. Each February, schoolchildren hear the story of the impoverished African-American boy from Detroit, a struggling student whose mother made him read two books a week until he bloomed into a scholar.
Leaving Detroit for Yale, Carson eventually found his way to John Hopkins, where he became one of the world's most preeminent neurosurgeons, gaining international acclaim in 1987 for performing the first separation of twins conjoined at the head. He is held as an African-American hero.
But some are calling him a token, an Uncle Tom, a traitor to his race. Why?
Because he came out of the closet. As a conservative. Maybe even a Republican. And African Americans aren't allowed to be Republican and keep full membership in their race.
The furor over Carson's politics began in February, when he was invited to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast.
The doctor told an audience that included President Barack Obama that the president's policies are hindering economic growth and opportunity in America.
Liberals screamed that Carson was parroting right-wing talking points and disrespecting the president.
Social networks lit up with diatribes against Carson, calling him a "house negro" and worse.
All of which, of course, caused conservatives to fall in love with him. They invited him to keynote last week's CPAC 2013 gathering, where the Republican right included him on a list of potential GOP presidential candidates.
About that prospect, Carson, who officially calls himself an independent, said: "If the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it, I would."
Before the Lord gets a hold of him, Michigan Republicans should consider locking him up.
The state GOP hasn't won a U.S. Senate race in Michigan since 1994. With the retirement of Democratic incumbent Sen. Carl Levin, Republicans believe they have a shot at the seat in 2016.
Carson, if he could be lured back to his native state, would bring national attention to the race, as well as national dollars. There are few things conservatives love more than a black Republican. And one of Carson's stature would draw money out of moldy GOP wallets everywhere.
Carson would help a party addicted to white suburban candidates intrigue young and urban voters, black and white, who grew up looking at his picture hanging on their classroom walls.
Carson has a charisma not often found in GOP politicians. Imagine this guy working the stump with the message he's been testing of self-reliance and personal responsibility, coming from someone who's proven anything is still possible in America.
Carson said at the prayer breakfast that "in this country, one of the founding principles was freedom of thought and freedom of expression."
Blacks have never fully enjoyed that freedom, first because of slavery, then Jim Crow, and now due to self-imposed sanctions on what African Americans can think and say politically and still keep their street cred.
If he got in the Michigan Senate race as a conservative Republican, Carson would test whether blacks are willing to extend to an African-American icon the freedom to think for himself.
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