Stacey Dash did not have a very good weekend, and now Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has come to her defense.
Last week, Dash was a guest on Fox & Friends, where she gave her two cents about black entertainers like Jada Pinkett Smith, Spike Lee and Lupita Nyong'o calling for more racial diversity after not even one actor of African descent was nominated for an Oscar for the second straight year. "I think it's ludicrous," she said about the backlash, which has fallen under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. "We have to make up our minds. Either we want to have segregation or integration."
Never mind that #OscarsSoWhite captures exactly why black-specific institutions that identify, nurture and recognize African-American talent that's overlooked and undervalued by white mainstream entertainment remain so important. Dash just wants black people to stop whining.
It was the sort of knee-jerk reaction that Dash has become infamous for in recent years as she's remade herself from the bourgie sidekick in the 1995 cult classic Clueless into one of the most recognizable black conservatives in the United States. But it's what she said next that really riled people up.
"If we don't want segregation, then we need to get rid of channels like BET, and the BET Awards, and the [NAACP] Image Awards, where you're only awarded if you're black," she said. "If it were other way around, we would be up in arms."
On BET, Carson jumped in with an argument that was actually rooted in historical fact.
"At this point in time [Black History Month] is important. If we didn't have a Black History Month, there are a lot of things we wouldn't talk about," Carson said. "I mean [without Black History Month] there's a whole bunch of people that we probably wouldn't talk about and we need to talk about them. Not only in the black community, we need to talk about them in every community in America. Everybody needs to understand that the greatness of America has a lot to do with contributions from everybody."
On The View, Whoopi Goldberg took Dash to task, saying, "One of the reasons that there is a BET is because networks wouldn't take a lot of shows that has an all-black cast."
Then, starting on Saturday, BET expertly trolled Dash by playing a marathon of music videos from her acting past and starting the hashtag #NeverForget. In each video, Dash appears as the exact opposite of the buttoned-up black conservative espousing so-called "traditional" values:
Dash tried to defend her comments in a blog post titled, "Why I Say What I Say, Even Though I Drive Whoopi, BET and Most Other Black People Crazy." In it, she traces her conservatism back to her rough childhood in New York in the South Bronx, writes in all caps about black people's misplaced trust in liberals and argues that most black people missed the point of the civil rights movement ("Which, by the way, we won," she said).
Carson's defense was actually making sense, but then came his next sentence. "Our ethnic diversity is not a problem unless we make it a problem."
That desire for a colorblind America might be well-intentioned, but by almost every measurable index, it's not realistic. Racism is woven into the very fabric of U.S. society, from housing to education to life expectancy. What Dash is missing, and what Carson missed in his almost-there defense of her, is that efforts like #BlackLivesMatter and #OscarsSoWhite aren't making a problem. They're naming one.