UPenn Professor Under Fire For Reportedly Calling Ben Carson A “Coon”

butlerDr. Ben Carson is learning the perils of rising in the polls in a presidential election. This week, the National Enquirer produced an article detailing what it says is a pattern of malpractice by Carson, including leaving a sponge in the head of a patient. Some of the harshest commentary however have come from liberal African Americans. Much like some of the criticism faced by Clarence Thomas, Carson has been attacked as being a type of traitor to the black community despite the fact that he is a hugely successful doctor and mentor for many. University of Pennsylvania Professor Anthea Butler however took that criticism to a new low in calling Carson a “coon.” While such a racial slur would normally be followed by demands for terminations from a white professor, the response to the slur has been at best muted.

The Butler incident raises again the question of a double standard in controversies at the University of California and Boston University, where there have been criticism of a double standard, even in the face of criminal conduct. Just yesterday we discussed a case at the University of London involving Bahar Mustafa.

Butler said that Ben Carson should win the “coon of the year” after the 2016 hopeful supported allowing Confederate flags at NASCAR events. Carson had stated a principled position in favor of free speech despite his own obvious dislike for the imagery. Many free rights advocates, including myself, have argued for the right to display such symbols. Carson said “Swastikas are a symbol of hate for some people too … and yet they still exist in our museums and places like that . . . If it’s a majority of people in that area who want it to fly, I certainly wouldn’t take it down.”

There are strong arguments for protecting this right, but Professor Butler by writing “If only there was a ‘coon of the year’ award …”


The response from the head of her department indicates that this is not going to be viewed as an issue for her colleagues or the school. Professor Justin McDaniel told the Washington Examiner that “She is a valued colleague and faculty member, but I have no comment on the tweet, because I have not seen it nor know the context of the comment.” Fair enough. However, there is a legitimate question of how the school would have responded to a white professor calling a leading African-American a “coon” or other slur. Would that public comment be treated as a private affair? Indeed, racially insensitive comments on social commentary by a Duke University professor led to calls for his termination.

McDaniel is not the only one defending Butler. Over at Mediaite, they are insisting that Butler never actually referred to Carson as a “coon.” While I have added “reportedly” to the title, the defense seems to go nowhere beyond suggesting that people are racists if they interpret a tweet on Carson as receiving an award of “Coon of the Year” as referring to Carson as “Coon of the Year.”

“Now, if you want to interpret Professor Butler’s tweet that way, you’re welcome to do so, but to state that interpretation as fact is just plain wrong. In fact, maybe you’re the racist for reading that tweet and assuming that she meant Ben Carson is a “coon.” There’s another much more relevant interpretation to be made.”

However, Tommy Christopher never gets around to actually explaining the misinterpretations by presumptive racists. It is simply noted that the tweet was in response to Ben Carson’s remarks on NASCAR and the Confederate flag — as has been widely reported. Christopher then goes into an aside on an actual Coon of the Year competition in Maine. Others have suggested that Butler was referring to how “whites” would refer to him. I fail to see how that is a defense. She would still be saying that Carson qualifies as a “coon”, which was obviously slur created for whites for blacks. It is saying that he meets that definition. You end up in the same place. It is like saying that a black leader is an Uncle Tom or “house n****r” — the point is that he qualifies as the type of subservient slave-like character referenced by racist whites. For those who have long been critical of the increasing list of “microaggressions” being sanctioned on campuses, this would seem a macroaggression under the prevailing logic.

This is not the first controversy for Butler who is also a regular on MSNBC as a commentator. In 2013, she tweeted in commentary on the Zimmerman case that


God ain’t good all of the time. In fact, sometimes, God is not for us. As a black woman in a nation that has taken too many pains to remind me that I am not a white man, and am not capable of taking care of my reproductive rights, or my voting rights, I know that this American god ain’t my god. As a matter of fact, I think he’s a white racist god with a problem. More importantly, he is carrying a gun and stalking young black men.

Once again, I have long maintained that academics, including Professor Butler, deserve free speech and academic protections for expressing controversial thoughts. The problem is not that there is a clearly undefined and unevenly applied standard for academics with regard to racially sensitive or controversial comments.

UnknownAs for Carson, I find the backlash against successful African-Americans like him or Clarence Thomas to be astonishing. One can easily disagree with Thomas’ opinions, but he has one of the most genuine and moving life stories of anyone in Washington. If he were liberal, his rise from abject poverty to the highest court would be celebrated as the triumph of true American values. The same can be said about Carson who has achieved a remarkable amount in his lifetime. African Americans should be celebrated regardless of their political views by the black community and society at large. The harsh and intolerant response to conservative blacks on campuses in not just unfair it is distinctly anti-intellectual. Yet, this intolerance is becoming a badge of pride for some who believe that they have license to insult and degrade those who dare hold views different from their own. Carson’s comment about the confederate flag shows considerable principle in overcoming the powerfully negative imagery for his community. It is Professor Butler who reduced this substantive debate to the level of racial slurs and personal insults.

Martin Luther King said “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Carson stood for free speech rights. It is not clear what Professor Butler stands for in casting racial slurs in response.

239 thoughts on “UPenn Professor Under Fire For Reportedly Calling Ben Carson A “Coon””

  1. As a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, I received a phone call from Penn today requesting a donation. I told the caller that Penn would not get a red cent from me until Professor Anhtea Butler apologizes for her spiteful remark.about Dr. Ben Carson. She asked me if I wished to have my statement included included as a comment and I said yes..Dr Ben Carson is one of the few candidates for president that possesses the admirable qualities that are so important in leadership.
    Jersey Farmer

  2. randyjet said …

    It is absurd to say that Carson represents any part of the black community …

    That comment is silly. Carson cannot represent the same people who are the same color as he is? ARe you saying he’s gone “Uncle Tom?” Please.

    Personally I don’t care what color Carson is, or any other candidate, gender too, …just give me sane reasonable people and let me choose.

    1. It is obvious Carson represents himself and his wife, and maybe some small part of black millionaires, but that is about it. I should have said, any noticeable part of the black community. He is not an Uncle Tom since that character had some sense. It is impossible to regard him as sane or reasonable since he feels that the Bible is a work of science and accurately describes how the universe and Earth were formed. So that means he disregards all physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, etc… Then he cannot even be truthful or rational when he denies saying things he is caught on TAPE saying. Then he goes on and says that you need to look NOT at what he said, but what he MEANT! As though we can read his mind. He lies constantly about things he has no knowledge of, then gets upset when others point out he is wrong. So maybe I can be better informed about this crooked charlatan.

      Trump is mostly concerned about himself and his class. He says he will do great things, but cannot state any particulars about any of it. Just trust me! Sanders and the Democrats say what they will do and how they will do it and pay for it. BIG DIFFERENCE! I rather like Sanders proposal to have free college education at state schools for all who can do the work. It reminds me of the GI Bill after WWII which was even better which applied to ALL universities, private and public, AND paid for everything, AND gave all the students a stipend so that they did not have to work while going to school. About 8 million GIs used that to get better educated and trained. It also was a major factor in boosting the US economy after the war. The US debt to GDP at the end of WWII was 120% by the way, FAR higher than it is now. I am amazed that any veteran could vote for Trump since he has publicly SPIT on Vietnam veterans. Then he tried to make amends and feigns concern for them. That is way out of bounds for most of us.

  3. Sandi … I carry a concealed sidearm about 95% of the time. Knowing how and when to use it does take a lot of practice and discipline. It is a last resort. The very last. How many guns one has is not the problem, it is the mental frame of mind and we’re about to have that debate nationally…how to monitor that factor.

    His mother obviously was aware he was obsessed and yet seemed to enable him from what I’ve read. She can’t be charged, but that doesn’t mean she’s not some what culpable.

    If a well versed pistol carrier had been in that classroom, no doubt fewer would have died. Concealed Carry aka a CPL license is not that difficult to acquire in my “shall issue” state, but it does require a background check. Even with a CPL, which should let me acquire a new pistol same day takes a week for my FBI check due to my very common name…and that is fine by me.

    How we’re going to get unobtrusive records on mental health is a giant problem…one we’ve yet to resolve. Mainly, who gets to make that judgment call?

    I acknowledge I know guys who have CPL’s who I will not let in to my house with their sidearms. I don’t trust their mentality. Little things…like too frequently touching or handling their sidearms. Consider I n-e-v-e-r touch mine….holster it on safe, double checked, in the morning and touch it again only when getting ready for bed. I almost forget it’s there. Never mind I am one of those odd-ball anti-Glock guys who won’t let them be carried in to the house either, with exceptions only for police officers I’ve known for years and trust implicitly….and have their Glock’s in a proper holster, not tucked in a belt line.

    For all those who like their Glock’s save it…I don’t like any of the latest trick trigger no safety striker fired sidearms…only one has a true “de-cocker” mechanism and that’s a 9mm model by Walther. I prefer .45 ACP. When I carry my M1911 .45 ACP I carry it in “condition 3” e.g, no round in chamber, magazine inserted, hammer down. That is how I carried it in uniform and it served me well….the time to rack the slide gives you time to think…very very few of us ever face a quick draw circumstance. My .45 that has a de-cocker I will carry in a modified “condition 2″…safety on & de-cocked (so the pistol works like a revolver).

    Last remark: I am NOT an “open carry” fan…there are few circumstances where it is useful. In most situations they are provocative. But … perhaps on the hips of teachers would be one of them where open carry would work. Wish I knew the answers.

  4. Comments that need correction:

    Dr. Carson left a sponge… The sponge was part of the procedure (I have a cadaver bone in my spine). Rarely is there any problem with this procedure. In this case the sponged was removed.

    Dr. Carson has given back to his country as a surgeon, saving lives.

    Dr. Carson is Black, so why does anyone say GOP are against a Black as President? Also, as shown in the last seven years, Obama was not ready for the job. Skin color was not an issue.

    The KKK’s Grand Master (or whatever the title) was held by Democratic Senator Robert Byrd. The GOP is against the KKK.

    I wish we had real journalist’s instead of cheerleaders for Democrats. These items should have been researched and only written after confirmation. My mistake, the use of journalist in the first sentence was an error. No true journalist would have written these without confirmation. Any professional would not have printed them without confirmation.

    Journalism should answer “Who, What, When Where, Why, and How”. None of the examples answers all these questions.

    Tabloids do not use journalists.

    1. Sandi, your post is bizarre and does not correspond with reality. Carson gave to himself first and foremost doing his job as a doctor thanks to the US taxpayers by the way. I gave four years of my LIFE to the military in wartime and to say that people gave to the country by doing their normal business is simply insulting to those of us who did serve.

      It is absurd to say that Carson represents any part of the black community or their interests. It is also bizarre that you neglect the FACT that the KKK leader David Duke was the GOP candidate for LA governor. As I pointed out in previous posts, the KKK was the terrorist arm of the Dixiecrats in the South. When the Democratic Party switched its position on segregation as a whole party, the racists left the Democrats and joined the GOP. To this day some GOP parties in the South refuse to hold a LINCOLN Day dinner because of its past. The same folks who called me a nigger lover are now in the GOP. THAT is why the FACT is that the racists and KKK are now the most fervent supporters of the GOP as any rational person knows. Our Guv Perry, a GOPer, even endorsed the idea of secession. You cannot seriously think that the GOP today is that of the past. I can cite other things such as the effort of the GOP to disenfranchise blacks and minorities. I have personal experience in Texas of how they fought against a Hispanic friend of ours registering to vote in our county. It is a staunch GOP one and all offices are held by the GOP. THAT is why the GOP is racist now. As I have previously noted, the GOP at one point was the progressive party in destroying slavery and fighting for civil service reform and other items. THAT is NOT true today.

      As for Obama, he has done a great job and again, you deny reality. When he came into office, I had been laid off for a number of months. After he took office and the Democrats passed a number of bills such as Cash for clunkers, I was back at work and unemployment dropped and is now down to record lows. My wife could not get ANY health insurance at all. She now has that thanks to Obama care. The only other President who has had as major an effect on my life was LBJ and Vietnam. I MUCH prefer this man to LBJ. As a professional pilot, I love Obama for making killing Bin Laden his highest priority, as opposed to W BUSH who said I don’t much care about Bin Laden now. That alone makes him a great President since he set a goal and worked to get it. Unlike our dilettante Bush boy.

  5. While I am a gun owner and regular shooter, the very last thing I ever want to see is guns as a last resort in the USA. WE have that right, but the idea is to not need it. Nothing could be worse, and hopefully will never be necessary…not that it couldn’t be. I worked in government (DOD & DA) for a long time and I DO NOT trust it to have the same reservations that I do. When you face other men who are also shooting at you, and you must shoot back, it changes you forever. Whomever you kill has kids like you, wives like you, family like you, and you can find that out by simply looking through their pockets…or they yours. The people that actually fight wars are not those who start them or encourage them. That’s in my past and I sincerely hope it remains there.

    Yes, the horde of military age men in the horde of refugees does give me pause. Just what is their real goal? They plainly assert they do not wish to assimilate from the interviews I’ve seen, so what is it? My “first guess” (and it is a guess) is that they just don’t wish to fight for their own homelands and expect others to do it for them, while supporting them in the meantime…largess demanded so to speak…not certain that is not worse. If it is more sinister, then heaven help us all, eventually.

    1. Aridog,

      If someone in that classroom (there were several who weren’t kids) had a gun, how many of the kids in Oregon would be alive today. Concealed carry is not easy to get and requires lots of practice.

      Was having 13 guns in the apartment legal. Did the mother know her son had that many? Should the mother be charged with something? Parents need to be responsible and pay attention.

  6. randyjet … I agree that we learn by reading or listening to others. I am more likely to read McCain than Kerry, and it has nothing to do with whether I like or dislike them. I really do have over a dozen books in the read soon queue, and all are documented histories. I am more likely, far more likely, to read histories bereft of bias…by others…with foot notes and extensive bibliography. Not crazy for McCain either, but he did pay some severe dues…so I will accept his opinion, even if I disagree with it. Still haven’t bought his book, nor will I do so. Can’t find similar reasons to read Kerry. Some would say I “hate” Kerry, which is untrue ( I hate no one, no time and it is pointless)…I just have no use for him and wish he’d just fade away. I gather that’s too much to ask for these days.

  7. randyjet … to answer your question, no I have not read Tour of Duty. Never could think of a reason to do so. The Vietnam issue, all sides, has worn me out. Kerry has nothing to teach me on the subject.

    1. The point is not to teach you about Vietnam, but to give the other side of the story. I really dislike McCain and his politics, yet I bought and read his book. I always try and learn from others on the opposing side and see what they have to say.

      1. When someone on the far left, the professor, uses a degrading term for black people, there is the sound of silence. If a Republican makes any comment, it is twisted to racism and “black lives matter” garbage. The inconsistency is amazing. The debate last night, where “all lives matter” was not a popular statement, was just disgusting. Being in my 70’s, if Hillary or Sanders is President, I can hole up and finish my life without a tough time. But my children and grands will not be so fortunate. I would suggest people do a lot of reading about how Russian people have lived since their revolution. Read Stalin’s daughter’s book (Svetlana Stalin). Read about Siberian jails.

        The only people tired of Hillary’s e-mails are the ones who know laws were broken. Most of all I wanted someone to ask her who suggested using a video, which had 500 hits prior to Obama’s declaration that it caused four American deaths in Benghazi, lying so Obama’s 2012 election wouldn’t be hurt.

        Thousands of Middle East refugees (majority seem to be young men able to fight, pouring into Europe are frightening. Does anyone think our hundreds of thousands will be properly screened and tracked? Your only protection after our protectors are wiped out, will be you and, hopefully, your gun(s). Get them before you can’t!

  8. randyjet … Kerry made allegations solely on hear say. He revealed nothing, but jumped on a popular political band wagon. Others, such as WO Hugh Thompson, of My Lai fame, were the ones who actually witnessed atrocity and did something about it. Kerry sought and received an early out to run for Congress and when he didn’t win he discovered the Winter Soldier phenomena…and coincidently began in it in my home town. Sorry, I cannot respect the man.

  9. Ari, I was wondering if you have read the book Tour of Duty about Kerry. It would seem to me that any fair minded person would read it. Hell, I bought and read McCain’s book Faith of our Fathers in HARD cover too.

  10. randyjet said…

    Kerry beyond most rational tests who is a fellow Vietnam vet who had a lot of combat experience and who has fought for vets his whole career…

    That singular display of lack of knowledge vis a vis Kerry is enough for me to suggest we just must agree to disagree.

    You actually think Kerry’s “Winter Soldier” exercise was pro-Vietnam veteran? A hear-say collection of maybe 100 disgruntled vets, none of which he served with, versus the 2.5 million of us who served in that war? You think he had a “lot of combat experience”? Please. But I’ll listen and wait for the list of his infantry combat exploits.

    1. The FACT is that in all wars atrocities occur on all sides. That is a fact of war. So to denigrate those who bring this FACT to light is like denying that some cops are criminals and commit crimes. That hardly means that ALL cops are corrupt or bad or that those who point out the corruption hate cops. The point is that the Vietnam war itself was an immoral and unnecessary war. I know that is hard for some to accept, but the US was wrong in that war. That does NOT mean that the other side was saintly either, as some in the anti-war movement thought. It is silly to compare those who fought on the basis of who was more macho or did REAL fighting. The GIs on the front line would not have a chance if it were not for the folks in the rear bringing up the gear and ammo or dropping the bombs.

  11. randyjet said …

    Back to the topic, the prof did not call Carson a coon. She did say that he would get that title from many of his supporters.

    Same thing in my opinion. The word is unnecessary, and no, she was not using literary license like those you cited, which I understand…in the very sense you cite as necessary for understanding the contrast. How is it necessary for “contrast” in Dr Carson’s case? Really? Connecting Dr Carson to the word, by any means, is unnecessary to understand, or not, his positions and contrast from other candidates. Doing so is plainly denigrating…no pun intended….and racially so.

    I see Dr Carson as a neuro-surgeon of some high acclaim and a man running for office. Period. Were I a Democrat in 2008 that would be considered just fine. (I quit the Democratic Party officially in 2004 due to Kerry) I do have a bias…for neuro-surgeons … because a young highly skilled one saved my better half’s, Judi, life when it was on the line with a ruptured brain aneurysm. No doubt in my mind that that young man had to make huge decisions in split seconds to save her life, thus he’s qualified, as any renowned ground breaking neuro-surgeon would be, for a decision making job.

    Since I am devoutly ABH, I’ll vote Trump if necessary, but I’d just as soon vote for Carson. Prefer to do so really. I’m sure that’s shocking to people like Anthea Butler given my social liberal/fiscal conservative values…and my “whiteness.” She presumes to know what I think. If I vote Trump I will have to rely on his ability to acquire great advisors, from outside the beltway, and not make amateur decisions like someone else we all know. Now we’re to retain 5,500 troops in Afghanistan…yet anyone who’s ever worn the uniform knows how weak and ineffective such a small force will be (akin to suicide if you volunteer for it, but some will because they feel duty bound & I get that) …That could be dicey but once again I’ll be voting least worst if Trump isn’t up to the job in reality. Oddly, Trump’s popularity doesn’t surprise me at all….many of us are yearning for a new guy, or girl, who isn’t coronated by the powers that be, on either side.

    1. Your preference for people is rather odd and your interpretation of remarks is even stranger. It is like saying that person is a coon, and another person saying that you called that person a coon and taking that as being the SAME! Then it is funny that you have no problem with Trump spitting on McCain and other POWs or saying that HE has military experience since he went to a military prep school as being the same or better as being a veteran. Yet you hate Kerry beyond most rational tests who is a fellow Vietnam vet who had a lot of combat experience and who has fought for vets his whole career. That hardly computes.

      A great surgeon did a good job on prolonging my mother’s life, for a year when she had brain cancer, yet I hardly would vote for him for president. The only thing about Carson that is good is that he had a good medical career. That is it. HE willfully lies on many topics and shows such ignorance and disregard for his profession and other topics that one cannot take him seriously. To think that any person could take the Bible as a scientific text cannot be viewed as a rational person and to think such a person would be fit for any office with that mindset is bizarre.

      If you want a person who has fought his whole life against the powers that be, Sanders is the only choice on that basis. Trump is part of the problem, Carson simply reflects the prejudices of his class and has no rational alternative or ability.

  12. Back to the topic, the prof did not call Carson a coon. She did say that he would get that title from many of his supporters. I have no problem using the words coon and nigger in a proper context and with a good purpose. For example, Nigger Jim in Huck Finn needs to be used to contrast his decency with the name and how it is used. Or as Malcolm X used to say, What do you call a black man with a Ph.D? Nigger. Those are good examples of when I have no problem with those words being used. The gratuitous use as Richard Pryor used to do is unnecessary.

  13. Back on topic, now: the word “Coon” was one of those prohibited in my home while growing up…in the 40’s & 50’s, maybe longer, it meant the same as the N-word and was forbidden. I cannot imagine an educated professor using it without malignant intent. There really are words that always harm feelings and that word is one of them. No legitimate use.

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