Friday, April 10, 2015

Ben Carson on Faith and Hip Hop Culture

Dr. Ben Carson, the inchoate Republican presidential candidate, is proud that he is not the typical politician.  His cultural comments prior to formally announcing his candidacy underscore that point.  

Carson got into trouble in March when conducting as he announced his Exploratory Committee during an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo on whether homosexuality is a choice. Dr. Carson cited the prison gay phenomenon.  That's provocative for a pundit but foolish for a Presidential candidate, as the topic is outside the bounds of the Executive Branch and is rife for ridicule.

Dr. Carson is continuing his social commentary.  During an appearance on a black oriented radio station, Dr. Carson condemned hip hop culture as turning away from traditional values which had helped African-Americans endure slavery, Jim Crow laws and the scourge of segregation.  When pressed on the pronouncement, Carson clarified that he condemned the hip hop community which dismisses anything to do with Jesus Christ.  

Hip Hop with a bowed head is hard to imagine, as the genre projects raw energy of anger and a spirit of escalation. The recent remake of Annie  (2014) which was produced by Will Smith has been criticized for bringing hip hop's materialistic ethos to the silver screen. But Dr. Carson's  broad condemnation of the hip hop community can be aptly be challenged by pointing to a breakout hit early in Kanye West's career "Jesus Walks" in which the lyrics cautiously seek God's wisdom in dealing with urban issues in a seedy secular society.


Weighing the pros and cons of hip hop is an interesting if inflammatory discussion point, but it is peripheral in discerning who should occupy the Oval Office for four years.

Then Ben Carson wrote penned an op/ed for the Washington Post's spring cleaning series boldly standing against selfies.  For a serious candidate, such a piece could be construed as humanizing or more cynically as a way to garner earned media. However, with Carson's string of peripheral points, he is losing his credibility of being a thoughtful, soft spoken voice.

Many Christian conservatives pined for Dr. Carson to represent them.  His media over the past month seem to be pivoting more towards social commentary rather than a religious appeal. It is frustrating to see an appealing candidate marginalize himself by continually straying into social commentary in the proto-campaign rather than build a solid foundation to construct a political platform for the primaries.  From this political animal's vantage point, considering faith and hip hop culture or lamenting about narcissism of selfies are not the way accomplish that objective.

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