By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, syoes@afro.com

When I think of Ben Carson, Donald Trump’s dupe who runs the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), I think of one of the many incendiary and hilarious lines from Chris Rock’s 1996 HBO special, “Bring the Pain.”

“I love Black people, but I hate ni—s!” Rock laments throughout his rant about what he perceives is the difference between the two.

Black people can debate the merits of Rock’s characterization of some members of our community (some liken Rock’s observation to Bill Cosby’s “pull your pants up” national screed, which got the now jailed comedian into hot water several years ago). But, ironically back in 1996, Carson more than likely would have quietly agreed with Rock’s volatile assessment.

However, the truth is in 2019, Carson in the minds of many Black people has become that which he may have despised, a prototype in many ways of Rock’s 1990’s ire.

Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)

On May 21, Carson’s coy cooning was on full display during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee led by the venerable Los Angeles Rep. Maxine Waters. Carson was defending a 16.4 percent cut to HUD’s budget, an agency that disproportionately serves Black, Brown and lower income people (last year HUD proposed rent increases of up to 150 percent on subsidized housing) . But, the former presidential candidate, who Trump likened to a pedophile on the campaign trail in 2016 (before making him his HUD lackey), ran into a couple of buzzsaws during the hearing.

Specifically, Carson was disemboweled by Waters’ fellow California legislator Rep. Katie Porter in an exchange about rudimentary housing terminology and policies.

Porter: “Do you know what an REO is?”

Carson: “An Oreo?”

Porter: “No, no, an R-E-O.”

Carson: “Real estate….”

Porter: “What’s the E stand for?”

Carson: “E organization?”

Porter: “Owned, real estate owned. That’s what happens when a property goes to foreclosure. We call it an REO…”

Predictably, Carson tried to flip the script shadowing the all too familiar antics of his obtuse boss Trump. He glibly with more than a hint of sexist attitude suggested he would connect Porter with “people who do that” (deal with foreclosed properties), to which Porter shot back “that was my day job before I came to Congress.”

Again, mimicking Trump, Carson later doubled down on his ignorance via Twitter, when he posed with a bag of Oreo cookies and wrote, “OH REO! Thanks, @RepKatiePorter. Enjoying a few post hearing snacks. Sending some your way!”

Ain’t that something, an Oreo holding a damn bag of Oreos.

It’s still hard to comprehend how a man who was a brilliant, pioneering neurosurgeon and, to use an archaic term, “a credit to his race” has devolved into an ashy MAGA buffoon.

During the same hearing on May 21, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, another star of the historic 2018 Freshman class of House Democrats, further obliterated Carson during a blistering introduction, which led to a withering exchange. “Let me be clear housing is a fundamental human right and the displacement of families should be regarded as the public health crisis that it is,” Pressley said. “Mr. Secretary your pioneering work in pediatric neurology is historic and is something to be commended. So, it pains me that your gifted hands and mind are doing the bidding and carrying the water of what I believe to be one of the most morally bankrupt presidents in our nation’s history.” Then Pressley asked Carson a series of yes or no questions, which the dithering politician wanted no parts of.

Pressley: “Yes or no, is stable and safe housing a social determinant of health?”

Carson: “Sounds like you have not been here and heard most of my testimony.”

Pressley: “Please just answer the question, reclaiming my time. Yes or no, is stable and safe housing a social determinant of health?”

Then the dialogue spiraled into an exchange where roles were reversed, and Pressley became the surgeon and Carson squirmed under her verbal dissection, mumbling incoherently. As Pressley pressed on, Carson blurted out, “reclaiming my time.” To which Pressley responded, “you don’t get to do that.”

Listening to the inane, mealy mouthed Carson attempt to shuffle his way through those hearings on May 21 would have been hilarious, if people’s lives weren’t literally on the line because of the immoral policies being implemented by a department he has no business being in charge of.

Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.

 

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor