“HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.”
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
There are a number of Black Americans who will not be invited to stand among the honorable even in the Black Panther’s mythical Land of Wakanda.
Names that come to mind immediately include former University of California Regent Ward Connelly, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, to name a few.
They must be included among Black men who attained positions of power by walking through doors broken open with the blood, sweat and tears of their forbearers and then using their own hands to slam those doors shut and lock them tightly behind them.
It would be negligent to omit from this in-glorious list of Black Americans President Donald J. Trump’s own personal “self-hating” Black, Dr. Ben Carson. He must be counted among those Blacks who, though they claim not to have forgotten where they came from, demonstrate repeatedly how quickly they forgot the people they left behind.
If Carson’s current position did not provide him such an expansive opportunity to have a damaging and lasting impact on the lives of struggling families across this country, I would say his appointment seemed satirically appropriate—Carson, the only Black man named to Trump’s cabinet, was appointed to head the Department of “House”-ing and Urban Development (HUD). Some might say, “Carson is a real House . . .”
When Carson was appointed, it did seem a bit off-kilter even for Trump, especially considering Carson was once an internationally celebrated pediatric brain surgeon who, among those in Trump’s orbit, had the imminent medical qualifications to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Instead, Trump passed over Carson for that position and appointed the now-disgraced and dismissed (though given an opportunity to resign) Tom Price, who had previously abandoned a less than notable career as an orthopedic surgeon to represent the state of Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Instead, Trump rewarded Carson for his lap-dog loyalty by appointing him to lead HUD. HUD’s historical mission was to strengthen the housing market in a way that bolsters the economy while also protecting consumers. It was charged with meeting the need for quality and affordable rental homes. And as importantly, it was supposed to utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life while building inclusive and sustainable communities that are free from discrimination.
As a Black man, the awesome responsibility of leading this agency should resonate with Carson, but does it? When Carson took the helm at HUD he went on an extended listening tour across the United States; but, it remains unclear how much the stories he heard actually touched his heart and fueled a passion to use his authority to make a difference in the lives of those who depend on the programs under HUD’s authority.
Vulnerable Americans look to HUD for its funding support of public housing authorities, Section 8 rental vouchers, mortgage subsidies, block grants, and other programs designed to uplift low income communities across the country.
Those like myself who had low expectations of Carson’s commitment to use his position to improve the lives of these individuals and families continue to be proven right in their assessment.
Since taking the lead at HUD, Carson has rolled back key Obama-era policies designed to mitigate the persistent struggle of those in minority communities. They included a program that improved access to high-opportunity neighborhoods for poor and minority families and an enhancement to the Section 8 program that allowed voucher holders to move to neighborhoods with access to jobs, services, and better schools. President Trump has also proposed deep cuts to the agency in his recent budget.
Now, adding insult to the injury already inflicted on the vulnerable communities who depend on the hobbled agency’s resources and services, the Wakanda-prohibited Carson has proposed changing the agency’s fundamental mission.
Carson just modified the agency’s mission statement to read: “HUD’s mission is to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation.”
This change turns the agency’s focus away from key parts of its initial mission by removing references to “sustainable, inclusive communities” in addition to the all-important focus on “consumer protection.”
It is nearly unfathomable that, as a Black man, Carson is so disconnected from the persistent economic disparities experienced by Black Americans that he does not realize racial discrimination still exists in housing and mortgage markets. Although such discrimination is certainly more strategic and discrete than it was in days gone by, there is little question that it exists.
Did Carson sleep through the devastating impact predatory lenders had on Black homeowners and the economic impact the Great Recession had on the African American community at large? Did he forget how the recession robbed the Black community of its accumulated wealth?
Even Harriet Beecher Stowe’s fictional Uncle Tom had more integrity and respect for others in his fictional Black community than Dr. Ben Carson has for real African Americans today. In her seminal work Uncle Tom’s Cabin there is a section where the story’s villain, Simon Legree, ordered Uncle Tom to beat a female slave. Tom refused. Even after Legree hit him several times with a lash, Tom stood firm and refused again. He said, “Mas’r, if you mean to kill me, kill me; but, as to my raising my hand agin’ anyone here, I never shall. I’ll die first'”
As Carson continues to do the bidding of President Trump by removing safety nets designed to enhance the quality of life for Black and other low-income people, it is easy to understand why Carson should be ostracized from any Black community, even the mythical Land of Wakanda.
Carson appears simultaneously dispassionate to the concerns of the Black community, calloused to the needs of the poor, and inept at his assignment—except when it comes to carrying out the directions of his dear leader, Donald Trump.
According to a definition presented in The Psychology of Racism by Robin Nicole Johnson, men like Carson, Connelly, Thomas, Clarke, and others who allow themselves to be used as mouthpieces to advance the philosophy of racists may suffer from internalized racism. In other words, they have internalized racist attitudes and stereotypes towards members of their own ethnic group—including themselves.
To this end, I can only echo the words of Attorney Joseph Welch spoken to Senator Joseph McCarthy during a similar period in American history of widespread paranoia, accusations, and discrimination—Dr. Carson, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”Editor’s Note: The Language of Birds is a commentary on issues impacting the Black community. Ancient cultures have a form of communication called the Language of Birds. While often defined as a “sacred language,” it is also called an un-language or a language of un-saying. Too often things are not said but inferred, purposefully structured in order to detract or confuse. This column will provide an opinionated translation of what, why, and how issues occur and their consequences for Black America.Stephanie Williams, Features WriterStephanie E. Williams is an award winning investigative reporter, editor and activist who has contributed to several Inland Empire publications. Williams spent more than thirty years as a middle-manager in the telecommunications industry before retiring to pursue her passion as a reporter and non-fiction writer. Beyond writing, Williams’ personal interests include stone-carving, drumming and sculpting.