Ben Carson, the United States secretary of housing and urban development, recently returned to his home in Virginia to find it vandalized with an anti-Trump obscenity, he shared on Facebook.
Carson’s post on the incident focused on the divisive climate that has erupted around “all of the racial and political strife emanating from the events in Charlottesville last weekend.”
Carson began the post by relaying a story from several years ago when his family bought a farm in rural Maryland. He wrote that as soon as they moved in, one of the neighbors immediately put up a Confederate flag.
“A friend of ours who is an African-American three-star general was coming to visit and immediately turned around concluding that he was in the wrong place. Interestingly, all the other neighbors immediately put up American flags shaming the other neighbor who [then] took down the Confederate flag,” wrote Carson.
The story was a preface to a more recent show of kindness from his neighbors in his current home in Virginia. There, his house, along with that of a neighbor, was vandalized by apparent critics of President Donald Trump. The vandals wrote “hateful rhetoric” about Trump on Carson’s home.
“We were out of town, but other kind, embarrassed neighbors cleaned up most of the mess before we returned,” wrote Carson.
Speaking during an interview on NBC, Carson said the vandals toilet papered his house and painted a derogatory statement about Trump on it as well.
Carson’s story wasn’t meant to highlight the actions of the administration’s political opponents, however. Instead, Carson wanted to draw attention to the best possible way to deal with the kind of hatred and divisiveness now being seen in the United States.
“In both instances, less than kind behavior was met by people taking the high road. We could all learn from these examples. Hatred and bigotry unfortunately still exists in our country and we must all continue to fight it, but let’s use the right tools,” he wrote.
He finished the post with a reassuring end to the story of his possibly racist neighbor in rural Maryland.
“That neighbor who put up the Confederate flag subsequently became friendly,” wrote Carson.
“That is the likely outcome if we just learn to be neighborly and to get to know each other,” he wrote.
Speaking with NBC, Carson suggested that many of the people upset about the current vandalism and condemnation of monuments to Confederate generals and so on, also don’t fully understand their history.
“We need to explain to people that many of the Confederate monuments that were put up, were put up specifically, during the Jim Crow era, specifically during the Civil Rights movement to make a statement,” he said.
Carson said that statement would offend people of color.
But responding with anger or violence would not solve the problem, in Carson’s view.
“You can’t necessarily control the animosity and hatred of someone else, but you can control how you react,” he said.
The best approach, he said was to pursue dialogue and understanding. These, rather than confrontation, could provide solutions.