Will the black Republicans please stand up?
Detroit native and world famous neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, has thrown his name into a race among nearly a dozen candidates to become the 45th President of the United States. In the growing list of contenders to succeed President Barack Obama, Carson already has quite a few lifetime accomplishments that set him apart in the crowd. A Michigan medical school alum, Carson has used his talents for countless miraculous surgeries, most famously an operation that separated two-conjoined twins. He is a New York Times bestseller six times over, faculty at Johns Hopkins University, and founder of a scholarship program in his own name. With that alone he is among the great people to have come out of Detroit.
Carson joins a near-extinct list in today's politics of African Americans publicly supporting the GOP. That wouldn't have been the case 50, or even 20, years ago. Black Republicans had a distinguished history of moderate conservatism, civil rights advocacy, and a very talented pool of political statesmen and women that represented the best of our community. Today, that history is rapidly disappearing and being replaced with mediocre politicians who pander to right wing talking points, and unfortunately it looks likeCarson is going to be no better.
Black Republicans today are portrayed as race traitors, self-hating, and out-of-touch with the majority of African Americans, especially on race relations and politics. For most of the Obama administration, those who have been given a pedestal or position to speak from have done a horrible job at erasing that stigma. Supporting policies that decrease the chance of students of color from going to great universities, shortening unemployment benefits for families who have fallen on hard times, voting in favor of stricter voting laws that directly affect minorities, staying silent when colleagues of your own party make racist statements about your community and the president. Many of the black Republicans on television seem more comfortable talking about corporate taxes and the super-rich than they are about the issues of police brutality, lack of education, and poverty.
One of the more outrageous examples of this come from Carson's own mouth. Before officially announcing his candidacy, he has made controversial remarks like homosexuality being a choice because of what he observes in prison culture, comparing the Obama administration to Nazi Germany, and saying Obamacare is worse than slavery. Instead of drawing in young black centrists and conservatives, he may be making it more difficult for the next generation of black politicians to publicly embrace the Republican Party.
Don't get me wrong, I have to bone to pick with the Black Democratic leadership as well. They take their constituents' votes for granted and do nothing in return. Having more moderate black Republicans could change all of that and make Democrats compete and give our community a more influential electoral base. Continuing to stay relevant and relatable is the key to that.
As a former Black Republican myself, I see the benefits of a more diverse, centrist voting bloc for Black America. Issues like civil rights, education, and social justice will be embedded in our national conversations like immigration has over the last two decades. I wish Carson all the best in his endeavors, but I feel that his campaign and the people he shares the spotlight with are doing more harm than good in attracting a new generation of black Republicans.
Christian Mays is a 2014 University of Michigan graduate and a former member of student government at UM.