To Ta-Nehisi Coates, Dr. Carson is Just Another Sambo Doll

In today’s New York Times, guest columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates launches what is only the latest and most pretentious attack against Dr. Ben Carson, arguing that he is a fraud–not because of what he is saying, but because white conservatives seem to like him. He “put on the mask,” Coates says, to help Republicans attack Obama.

Coates says Carson is only the latest in a string of black conservatives who have received undue attention from Republicans who are convinced they need to use a black person to beat Obama. He cites Alan Keyes, Michael Steele, and Allen West as willing black stooges for the cause, each a “Conservative Black Hope of the moment.”

To Coates, these figures are like the dancing Sambo doll in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man–my analogy, not Coates’s, though his attack follows that familiar literary pattern. They are manipulated by whites for the purposes of affirming black stereotypes–in this case, Coates says, that black Democrats are “brainwashed slaves.”

The irony is that Coates seems happy to service white liberals’ own stereotype of black conservatives–that they are just puppets manipulated by more powerful, and racist, white interests, not to be taken seriously for their ideas, none of which Coates bothers to refute, mocking Carson’s National Prayer Breakfast speech as “meandering.”

Coates seizes on Carson’s provocative use of the slippery-slope argument in opposing gay marriage–i.e. that changing the definition of marriage opens the door to more radical innovations–without actually quoting it. 

That might be a provocative argument, but it draws no irritation when it is addressed by liberals–as it was at the Supreme Court last week, when Justice Sonia Sotomayor raised the question of whether gay marriage would open the door to legalizing polygamy or incest. Liberal media treated the question as worthy of extended discussion.

(And never mind that less than a year ago, President Barack Obama also opposed gay marriage on traditional grounds.)

Liberals–of whatever color–single out Carson because he is black. Ironically, that is not why conservatives were drawn to him. The first time many heard his speech was on the Rush Limbaugh Show. Radio is a colorblind medium, and Limbaugh did not refer to Carson’s race (somehow, I pictured him as a rotund middle-aged Jew).

What stood out about Carson was his common sense and his willingness to speak the truth plainly, albeit respectfully, in front of President Obama–a courage all too rare in today’s Washington, D.C., where the fawning White House press corps’s chief complaint is that they are not permitted access to the president on the golf tee.

Note that Coates does not dare compare Carson to those whom liberals have chosen to speak for black voters, few of whom could survive politically without gerrymandering. Yes, Allen West lost–but look where he won in the first place, unseating a white liberal on Democrats’ turf. That is progress–for conservatives, and America.

That Coates would mount this attack on April 4th, the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., is offensive but not shocking. The left has been undermining Dr. King’s legacy for decades. 

To them, Dr. Carson is to be condemned for the color of his skin, not by the content of his character or the power of his words.