It’s clear that the reason Ben Carson got a jump in the polls after the first Republican debate is because he said this:

You know, we have the purveyors of hatred who take every single incident between people of two races and try to make a race war out of it, and drive wedges into people. And this does not need to be done.

What we need to think about instead — you know, I was asked by an NPR reporter once, why don’t I talk about race that often. I said it’s because I’m a neurosurgeon. And she thought that was a strange response. And you say — I said, you see, when I take someone to the operating room, I’m actually operating on the thing that makes them who they are. The skin doesn’t make them who they are. The hair doesn’t make them who they are. And it’s time for us to move beyond that.

But then his whole campaign got derailed when it was made public that he had participated in research using fetal tissue from abortions. After attempting to make excuses for his blatant hypocrisy in condemning Planned Parenthood, Carson tried to get things back on track by writing an op-ed for The Hill.

Cason begins by relaying some of his own story and then suggests that he is going to use his own experience to talk about racism.

But the major factor in how my life has turned out was — and is — my attitude and ability to choose the object of my concentration.

My views on race in this country start from that perspective. While I advocate for a colorblind society, I am by no means blind to the reality of racism. But again it comes down to a matter of focus. I believe that if we focus on what divides us rather than what unites us, we impede our ability to transcend differences and work together constructively toward a better future for all Americans.

What follows is actually NOT a discussion of racism in this country – but a discussion about poverty, and what we should/shouldn’t do about it (hint: same old Republican line about the failure of the war on poverty).

The reason this is so interesting is that within the scope of a few sentences, Carson makes the leap that far too many people do to avoid the topic of racism. By switching to a discussion of poverty, his prescriptions are all about what poor (i.e., black) people need to do to stop being poor. If you think that has anything to do with racism, you just put the whole onus of stopping it on poor black people. Here’s how Carson does that:

The assumption that people are “poor” grounds them in a mentality that reduces agency and creates more dependency. And more tragically, it obscures the reality that there is an abundance of opportunity that is ready for people who want to avail themselves of it.

This is why it is so important for white progressives to get this right. The impetus for the Black Lives Matter movement is the killing of black people – often by police officers. I can’t think of one of those deaths that was related to poverty. Many of the victims were actually middle class. It is the “mentality” of those who pulled the trigger (usually white men) that is the problem.

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