For the longest time I have been waiting for Republican Party Presidential hopeful Ben Carson to reach out to the African-American community, particularly its formidable bloc of young voters, in some form or fashion. My patience has been rewarded as Carson has stepped up to the plate, or should I say the microphone, and made a direct overture to young African-American voters via hip-hop culture.
Yes, you heard me correctly, Ben Carson is now attempting to prove that he has some connection to African-American popular culture with his latest radio ad that uses the rapper Aspiring Mogul in a 60-second tract called “Freedom”. In the alluded to ad that uses a Carson speech as the backdrop, Aspiring Mogul prods listeners to “Vote and support Ben Carson, for our next president, it’d be awesome. If we want to get America back on track, we gotta vote Ben Carson as a matter of fact.”
The Carson campaign plans on airing the radio spot in eight urban markets — Memphis (Tennessee), Little Rock (Arkansas), Atlanta (Georgia), Detroit (Michigan), Miami (Florida), Birmingham (Alabama), and Jackson (Mississippi) — to hopefully spark young African-Americans gravitation toward his campaign as both workers and voters. According to Doug Watts, Ben Carson’s campaign spokesman, African-American youth “…need to get involved and express their voice through their vote…This happens to be a group that we feel pretty strongly is ready and prepared to start working for Ben Carson.”
Carson, who is most certainly attempting to strategically use rap music as a means to connect with young African-American voters, stated that the ad was created to communicate to young urban Blacks “…in a language that they prefer…a cultural format that they appreciate.”
I must give it to Carson; I did not think that it was possible for him to be more disconnected from African-Americans than he has been throughout his surprisingly successful political campaign. However, Carson rose to the occasion and showed that not only is he disconnected from the vast majority of African-Americans, but also he possesses an uncanny knack of offending them at every turn.
Carson is in many ways exploiting an opening that other white conservatives would never be allowed to get away with by making his aforementioned overtures via a rap music track. Had it been Rubio, Trump, or any of the other Republican candidates who made a rap song to reach young African-American voters, they would have been not only castigated, but also witnesses to the death of their political aspirations.
Carson’s pandering to segments of the African-American community is particularly revealing as it shows his belief that the vote of young African-Americans will not be issue driven. Apparently Carson believes that a mediocre rap beat combined with a few choice words that have little to do with either the issues facing this nation or the African-American community and its residents is the formula to capture the young Black vote. Carson’s poor attempt at courting young African-Americans reminds me of car companies who produce commercials to promote their product to different consumer groups. Without fail, the advertisement aimed at young African-Americans has a hip-hop beat behind it, flashy pictures, and absolutely no information regarding miles per gallon or any other important information that one would need prior to purchasing an automobile.
In many ways, Carson’s overture toward young African-Americans is insulting as it reveals an obvious belief that they are neither informed about political issues nor desirous of learning about them. Although it may shock those on the Right, the only way to secure the loyalty of African-Americans is by constructing a political platform that addresses the myriad maladies plaguing the Black community in a tangible way.
Fortunately for Carson’s camp, there is still time to apologize for this error and approach young African-American voters as the informed and intelligent population that they are; however, I suspect that Carson will fail to implement this rationale strategy because such thoughts flow from the realization that Black youth are as politically savvy as their white counterparts. In all probability, Carson will be too preoccupied with laying down lyrics and tracks for his next radio ad to come to such a realization.
James Thomas Jones III, Ph. D.