Tags: Barack Obama | Ben Carson | Media Bias | HUD | slavery

Media Should Shift From Carson's Slavery Remark to Good He Will Do

Image: Media Should Shift From Carson's Slavery Remark to Good He Will Do
HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson in the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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Wednesday, 08 Mar 2017 11:27 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Many can recall the moment when a political leader made a statement (or comparison) that was quickly seen as a real gaffe.

In fact, truth be told, many of us recall moments in our very own lives where we have made a comment that we would later regret. It’s part of the human experience. No one is perfect.

Yet, words do matter and there are times when a poorly turned phrase can at least be offensive to some. This is particularly true when the person who utters it is a public figure.

Expectations there are higher. Rightfully so.

There will always be people who can’t be satisfied because it doesn’t fit into their preconceived view of that person, their family, their job, their origin. But one’s character is affirmed by how the person who suddenly finds themselves in such a controversy handles that tough situation: 

  • Are they defensive or in a denial?
  • Or do they listen, process and clarify to reflect the intended meaning of their words?

Then-U.S. President Barack Obama made similar comments during a ceremony for newly naturalized U.S. citizens back on Dec. 15, 2015. The president said, "those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily," they were "immigrants themselves" in "their own way," who had faith they could create a better life for themselves.

Yet, at that time there was no backlash, no calls for an apology.

However, Housing and Urban Devlopment (HUD) Secretary Dr. Ben Carson — being a man of integrity — clarified his remarks, "The slave narrative and immigrant narrative are two entirely different experiences. Slaves were ripped from their families and their homes and forced against their will after being sold into slavery by slave traders.

"The immigrants made the choice to come to America. They saw this country as a land of opportunity. In contrast, slaves were forced here against their will and lost all of their opportunities."

I have known Dr. Carson for 25 years. His intent was to shine a light on the values and aspirations we all share. It was certainly not to offend. 

As he noted in the above quote, the slavery experience, and the immigrant experience could not be more different. His own life, it’s challenges and obstacles, and apparent limits have reflected a reality of growing up in inner-city poverty— as the ancestor of slaves.

Ben Carson’s instinct is not to ignore the scars of the historical American black experience, it is rather to find ways to unite all Americans, as that is the best way forward.

True, if given the opportunity, he would likely have phrased yesterday’s remarks differently. But we should all look to Dr. Carson, in context,  as a healing, unifying public figure.

In its entirety, Carson’s remarks were well received by the career staff at HUD.

He received a standing ovation and multiple rounds of applause. One woman even stood up saying, "I don’t have a question, I just want to let you know that your remarks have given me comfort."

There were hundreds of staff waiting in line after Dr. Carson’s remarks to get a chance to shake his hand or take a quick picture with him.

But all of this was lost because the media crafted a narrative that Dr. Carson was intent on hurting people with his words. When asked by reporters of their thoughts, HUD staff said they weren’t offended.

One African-American male staffer reported hours later that he didn’t even know anything Dr. Carson said was a big deal until later seeing it on the local news. This speaks volumes. 

Dr. Carson is a servant leader. In my 25 years of knowing him, I have found him to be a man of compassion — always putting others before himself.

I have also known him as someone who would never do anything to intentionally hurt anyone. We can all get caught up in the moment and say things "off-script."

What matters is that we take the time to listen to those who may have been offended by our remarks and provide clarity, which is exactly what Secretary Carson has done.

The department that Dr. Carson leads faces major challenges and opportunities, and he is uniquely positioned to bring together various federal departments to comprehensively address the needs of America’s most challenged families and communities.

He can break down artificial silos which have no regard for interdependence.

Leveraging his international reputation as a healthcare expert, Dr. Carson can lead efforts to use housing to improve health outcomes — reducing chronic illnesses such as asthma and other respiratory ailments.

He can create the incentives for a more public-private partnership that will provide better, stronger, healthier conditions for public housing residents.

Ben Carson will push to use data and technology to give low-income residents more choice, more services, more support and more hope. These are the true issues that deserve our attention.

Dr. Carson’s heart is in the right place and as his longtime friend, I feel confident in his ability to be one of the best secretaries HUD has ever seen.

Armstrong Williams is the author of "Reawakening Virtues." He is a political commentator who writes a conservative newspaper column, hosts a nationally syndicated TV program called "The Right Side," and hosts a daily radio show on Sirius/XM Power 128 (6-7 p.m. and 5-6 a.m.) Monday through Friday. He also is owner of Howard Stirk Holdings Broadcast TV stations. Read more reports from Armstrong Williams — Click Here Now

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Ben Carson will push to use data and technology to give low-income residents more choice, more services, more support and more hope. These are the true issues that deserve our attention. His heart is in the right place.
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2017-27-08
Wednesday, 08 Mar 2017 11:27 AM
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