The Search For The Soul Ben Carson Once Possessed » VSB

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The Search For The Soul Ben Carson Once Possessed

Dear Ben Carson,

Yesterday, you said that enslaved people were immigrants, and whether you believe that deep down in the soul you used to possess, one can never know. Nevertheless, I am going to talk to you even though I fear you vacated your body a long time ago. I believe you sent yourself away where no one could touch you. You went crazy first and now you exist in parts. You, dear Ben, are a man who once was. But being a woman of hope, I ask: can you walk a ways and see where your heart is? I imagine it used to beat with such vigor and passion, a magic heart.

I believe you are dying a slow death in the shell of your skin, because what else could bring you to say enslaved human beings who were stacked atop each other with no room to move or breathe or relieve themselves, who were starved and whipped and raped, who were ripped from their husbands and wives and from their children—many of whom died during the treacherous journey, their bones their only song now at the bottom of dead seas made holy now by their gleam—were immigrants? They were enslaved, Ben. They were worked, often, to death, for nothing. That’s call slavery, Ben. It went on for four centuries. Ben, did you know they were in chains? Ben, what immigrants be in chains? Ben, you sound so stupid, but unfortunately, you are not merely stupid. If you were merely stupid, this would not cause us such outrage. Ben, we knew a while ago that you had become…different. Conservative. Ignorant. Bigoted. You didn’t look or talk like the Ben who was once ours—the way the Temptations are ours, the way Barack and Michelle are ours, the way Anita Baker is ours, the way Maxine Waters is ours, the way gospel and the blues are ours. But we weren’t enough for you. Our love wasn’t good enough for you, and neither was self-love. Even the best Uncle Toms can be said to have been bought. Oh, Ben. I do not believe anyone bought your soul; I believe you just gave it away. And you can’t stand yourself no more. I might’ve felt bad enough to weep for you, except you chose this.

I don’t know where your hands have been, even though I know what they used to be: beautiful, brilliant hands, soft as an angel’s wing, doing God’s mighty work. Ben, you think you doing God’s work now? You ain’t. No one loves you enough to tell you because everyone in your circle is still clinging to the Ben Carson you used to be in hopes that, maybe, you could return. But I sense no one is holding their breath on that. Your new, white friends must love all that you have become: a lonesome shell that is either silent or, when he speaks, deadly.

Though I believe you are gone, gone, gone, I got to at least tell you about yourself. Ben, how many Black boys and girls wanted to be doctors and surgeons because of you? But look what you did yesterday: you made racist white people—and even non-racist white people—get off for slavery. Yeah, you did that. I know it can’t sting you just right because you deadened yourself a while back. Nevertheless. You made them believe we wanted that torture and terror. Ben, do you realize you made them believe it was okay to steal us from our first homes? That somehow, slavery was part of our striving? Ben, do you know you told them we wanted that? That we believe it was all worth it for the American Dream, which for many of us, remains a trick? Ben, your hands dirty. They ain’t just dirty, though, Ben. Your hands bloody. Your hands bloody with Black blood. You put bodies on those ships yesterday. You put chains on little children. You said “immigrants” as if we chose. As if that could even be possible. If you were only stupid, Ben. But no.

It’s sad that you have chosen to be comatose because they were jealous and couldn’t take your Black genius, how you understood the brain—back then— the way Morrison understands language or the way Miles knew his horn. Ben, you are probably struggling with whom I mean when I say they. I mean white people. I see you shaking your head at that Ben, but they were lesser than you because they couldn’t stand all the genius you were. They hated the way your mind outmaneuvered theirs. Oh, Ben. I can only imagine the landmines of micro and macro aggressions you withstood, on the regular. You were a beautiful brown tree, and they were a hurricane. A fist formed to pound you. I can only imagine the word “nigger” on repeat and all the countless, creative ways they called you that, day in and day out. After all, their greatest creativity is their brutality. The more creative your genius became, the more they reviled you. The more rootless you felt. You let it sink into the bone, how much they hated you. You let them wear you out. Their whiteness haunted you. Their whiteness said you ain’t shit, and you believed them because you wanted their love.

Why was our love not enough? Did we not hold you up? Did we not whisper your name at Sunday dinners? Did we not pray for God to keep working through your hands? Did we not know your name like we know Dr. King’s? Oh, Ben. Our love is the best love, baby. It’s a shame you couldn’t know that when it mattered, back when your soul was in its place, back when your heart beat on time. Your hands used to do magic work. Oh, Lord, your beautiful hands! Now they don’t have no witness to speak of. They just fold in your lap. I can almost hear them: Well, Lord. We tried.

Ben…what happened to Ben Carson?

I know he gone. But do you know where you put him? Did you drown him where they drowned Emmett? Was he shot in his driveway like Medgar? Was he bombed on Christmas Eve? Did you lock him in a cell and throw away the key? Did you cut out his tongue when you took away his heart and his soul? Can you count the lives you touched? Then broke? Does Ben know that number?

No, you don’t even dream anymore.

Ben, I have always believed Baby Suggs, holy, of Morrison’s Beloved when she said, “There is no bad luck in the world but whitefolks. They don’t know when to stop.” Then she died. I thought that was the end-all. But you have bested even her. There ain’t no bad luck in the world, I offer as revision, but a Black man who hates himself. Because that man can do no good. All he can do is make the folks who once loved him wonder if it was a phantom all that time. You made the descendants of the so-called masters feel like they were doing us a favor. Four hundred years of “good looking out.” Oh, Ben. How you disappoint. 

You need to know you should stop talking. I believe silence is golden right now while you go out there and find your real tongue—the tongue that used to raise people from what would have been a certain death without first your tongue declaring what you were about to do, then your hands doing that magic on operating tables. Lord, how you used to shine in that operating room. How you used to shine everywhere. Don’t you miss your shine? Do you remember how it felt to glow? Naw. I don’t imagine you do.

Ben, I can’t stand you no more or the sound of your voice. I remember who you were, though. Part of why we’re out here dragging you for life is not just because you deserve it, but because your mouth is an open wound, and you hurt us with your lies yesterday. We bear the memory of what you used to mean to us. Once, I would have loved to introduce my son to you. That time has passed. I’d believe you might have a chance to come back if it wasn’t for your eyes. They are such lifeless, dead things.

You still got breath, from what it looks like. You have to have breath to be talking, even though you should stop. Can you use your breath as a starting point? I’d hoped you might’ve left your soul someplace where you can go back for it. But yesterday, you snatched pretty much all hope of that. Still and all. I write to you. Maybe something inside of you is still alive. You owe us an apology, you sad, sad shell of what used to be a man worthy of our esteem, our respect, our devotion, and our love. Now, all we got for you is shade. And scorch. Even if you uttered sorry, all we would hear is lifeless noise. So. Keep it.

But this:

Ben, put your eyes back in. See what you did to yourself. Amidst a sea of brown love that washed over you, back then, as a prayer, you waded out into deep water and went under. Now you work for a spoiled, hateful, incompetent soul. You salute to him. Those splinters in your feet are from the pedestal we put you on, that you shattered. Oh. How you bleed.

I leave you, bewildered but not surprised.

Tameka Cage-Conley

Tameka Cage Conley, PhD is a literary artist who writes poetry, fiction, plays, and essays. She has received writing fellowships from Cave Canem, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She is published in a number of journals and literary magazines, including Callaloo, African American Review, Fledgling Rag, and Huizache, and is completing her first novel and poetry collection. She is an MFA Candidate in Fiction at the Iowa Writer's Workshop.

  • Mary Burrell

    Ben Carson sold his soul to Orange Hitler.

    • Gibbous

      He sold his soul so long ago, that Orange Hitler doesn’t even bother him. Don’t you remember the campaign? How he ran for president, calling the ACA worse than slavery?

      His soul is long gone.

      • Mary Burrell

        Yes, I posted about that quote he made about the ACA. That’s when i knew he had lost his mind.

  • Darkchloe144

    That last paragraph tho…this one gutted me. And the writer’s rap sheet certainly precedes her, Great post!

  • Alessandro De Medici

    Ehh, nothing major happened to Ben Carson.

    He’s embraced an identity that lets him be, well, himself; probably not a self most of us like, but it is what it is. I started listening to his speech to the HUD yesterday, and to be honest, I had to slow it down to hear the slavery segment, just because it went by so quickly: it’s 33 seconds in a 37 min Speech + Q&A.

    He believes this stuff, maybe always did. If you want to endure the pain, you should go ahead and listen to him say what he said about slaves being immigrants, he barely hesitated or paused to pander to his audience. Plus it was an HUD speech, and he had two black women out of three ask questions during Q&A.

    It might make us feel better to view it like he changed, and deceived us all, but it’s probably more accurate to say, we never knew this guy as much as we thought we did.

    • Hugh Akston

      I believe you’re right with the last paragraph

      Many of those that we admire too many times hide their beliefs from the public…or at least doesn’t get the platform to express that…

      Maybe Ben was always like that…but maybe I need to reread gifted hands

    • Looking4Treble

      I think that we were so elated, impressed and just downright proud to have a Black man at the pinnacle of a profession that so few reach of ANY color, and understanding the struggle that he must have fought to get there, and the light he shone as a standard bearer for our people, that we embraced who we THOUGHT he was as one of our native sons, not realizing what and who he really was and how he really thought.

      We assumed he understood where his ‘roots’ were, so we fed and watered him, and made sure he got lots of sun. We are now witnessing the fact that he planted his tree in another garden – and it ain’t ours. So he can have all of this shade.

  • MsCee

    He kinda look like Big Sean in that picture

  • Islandpiratequeen

    That was more beautiful than he deserved.

    • Mary Burrell

      It really was very talented writer.

      • Doreen Gaffney Barr

        I agree. Isn’t it amazing how some people have so much talent like that? Not dismissing her hard work and determination

    • C. M.


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  • Brown Rose

    Despite the many lies he wrote in Gifted Hands. People ignore the obvious because he was a doctor and he specialized in an admittedly difficult and competitive surgical field with high risk .Ben Carson has always been that way.


    Very eloquent article filled with realism, passion, and truth.

    Carson probably believed in his reactionary, obscene views on the low for years. This time is certainly an opportunity for us to stand firm in our views and to continue in the long work to fight for our rightful justice. Our ancestors must be respected. They suffered extreme brutality, lynchings, enslavement, and other atrocities. Our black ancestors scarified hugely and we want to witness a better existence for our descendants. Today, we still have a long way to go and we desire not only the power and the resources to determine our destinies (as we have the right to advance pro-black interests without apology). We believe in the total eradication of the system of racism and economic oppression, so a democratic, egalitarian, and totally fair system can flourish. We reject fascism. We want black liberation.

  • NomadaNare

    He has the same eyes now as he did then albeit older

    I have heard at least one other *brilliant* person (by their standards) say the same sort of nonsense

    It is a feature of that sort of person and part and parcel to their type of *success*

    We as a group really should take a look at the relationship between respect for authority evangelism and discipline with regards to academics

    • La Bandita

      That I agree with. The trifecta of conservative religion, education and success equals…a hatred of black people? I think.

  • Mary Burrell

    Great read Tameka Cage Conley! I enjoyed reading that.

  • La Bandita

    Beautifully written. He’s a Black fundie, so he’s had these thoughts for a while. And he notice he doesn’t hate himself – he hates the other blacks that are not as magical as he. Clarence Thomas studied to become a Priest. He was very hard on himself, but when he became successful he turned his hatred outward to those that looked like him. The thesis question is. Are bm more a conduit for white supremacy or does it just look that way? There seems to be a white supremacy play book and some people have pages, so have chapters, and some just have verse.

    • i see you’re doing that again.

      • La Bandita

        In the most respectful loving way. Why cant have that conversation?

        • JulianWithTheRedCorvette

          I think bm and bw can be equal conduits for white supremacy. But remember; we live in patriarchal society- as in all other things, the menfolk are going to be pushed out in front while the ladies keep to the kitchen.

          • La Bandita

            So the men are just louder w/it? I can believe that.

            • FeeFee

              I think patriachy is why BM seem to be at the forefront of it. Think about this, all these self-hating BM can’t be white, but they are male and we all know by now white supremacy and patriachy go in hand and hand. So these black men already have one aspect of this naturally–being male, all that’s left to do then is to reject the racial aspect of themselves by any means neccessary.

              I think BM are lured a lot more easily to be conduit of white supremacy based on them being already male. Black women would have to hate too much about ourselves (gender, look and race) in order to be conduit of white supremacy in the same manner. I think black women that are conduit to white supremacy do so, but in a different way.

              • La Bandita

                The best answer!! But that puts the entire community in peril. And wise one, how would it form in bw? Whenever I look closely its not really there all the way. It more just surface level like, “kidding!! I really love blk people.”

                • FeeFee

                  For BW, I think we’re conduit to white supremacy as you mentioned, in a much more subtle way. For a long time, I don’t think we even realized it. Our self-hatred tends to manifest itself in our love of european beauty standards and the rejection of our own–hatred of our natural hair for centuries, skin bleaching and attempting to immulate european standards of beauty by any means neccessary–example Lil’ Kim.

                  We’ve been doing it for so long–making fun of our natural curl patterns calling them beedie bees via the show Martin, hanging to the blond aesthetic for dear life–for ex. Mary J. Blige (have never seen what her natural hair looks like and probably never will) and ect. I don’t think we realized that these things too are conduit to white supremacy, but thankfully in the last of coupe of years, we’ve been combatting it. With the natural hair movement picking up steam and challenging European standards of beauty (you could say the big butt trend is one way to challenge it lol) in much more vocal way has opened up my eyes to a lot of this. But of course we still have a long way to go, and us BW still falter when it comes rejecting white supremacy as a whole, so BM are not alone.

                  • La Bandita

                    Thanks. You get your A++

        • No Google

          Because folks don’t want to think about how their actions and the actions of the people close to them are harmful.

          • La Bandita

            Thank you!! I’m not wrong for wanting to having the conversation. I think they are wrong for pretending its not important enough to discuss.

      • Epsilonicus

        Peeped it too

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        Now if I said “Hotep”, people would be up in arms…guess that only applies to guys who demonstrate dog-whistling misogyny.

    • Val

      I don’t think it’s a gender thing, I think it’s a self-hate thing. I’m pretty sure for every Black man of Carson’s ilk there’s a Black woman equally as c00ntastic.

      • cedriclathan

        Ponderossa and ‘ol Ben (Cartright) Carson. They’d make a power couple.

      • MsKeisha23

        The black women that voted him and just now starting to get bold with their “I AIN’T ASHAMED TO SAY I VOTED FOR HIM” cries. I’m not a violent person but I would like to punch and shake the ish outta so many people. It’s astounding.

    • cedriclathan

      I have a friend who is also a brain surgeon and also brilliant (worked at NASA, went back to school to become a heart surgeon before becoming a brain surgeon). I’ll float some question about ol’ Uncle Ben to him, see what he thinks. (this friend’s brother is an eye surgeon as was their father, so, it runs in the family)

    • Epsilonicus

      “The thesis question is. Are bm more a conduit for white supremacy or does it just look that way?”

      Just looks that way

      • La Bandita

        You’re not taking this seriously. D- on your paper or more words and write out your answer:)

    • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

      It looks that way to people who don’t like bm to start with.

      • La Bandita

        You can love bm and still vet them – no one gets a free pass except babies and puppies. Also some men can be myopic regarding the racism they face and clueless around sexism AND racism bw face. Or try to use sexism to make up for racism. But I get it now that we ALL can be conduits to white supremacy. In fact, so depressing.

        ETA: that’s why I don’t like the word cooning and such. We all have blindsides in some areas regarding race, while also being woke in other areas.

    • No Google

      “Are bm more a conduit for white supremacy”

      Absolutely. Not saying that black women don’t have colonized minds, of course they do. As Junot Diaz says, White supremacy lives in ALL of us. But we live in a patriarchal society and the stature of bm (cis, straight) in the community makes them the bigger and “better” reach in maintaining white supremacy.

      • La Bandita

        I was thinking that many bm (secretly and not so secretly) want to be wm. And getting a ww helps them play pretend that. Even if some bw pretending at being ww w/the blond hair society lets. them. know immediately.

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