Ben Carson didn't burst onto the public stage when he spoke truth to power at the National Prayer Breakfast.

The neurosurgeon was already a legendary figure for his life story and work with children;  Carson  had been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was a best-selling author, and  even the subject of a television movie Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story in which he was played by actor Cuba Gooding Jr.

But the Prayer Breakfast was a breakout event.

With an uncomfortable President Obama sitting just feet away, Carson spoke about the problem of moral decline and fiscal irresponsibility. Both because of the content and the venue, his remarks quickly went viral and his new status was reflected in his invitation to speak at this year’s CPAC convention, which will serve as a sort of coming out event for Carson.

My utterly unsolicited advice for the good doctor: brace yourself.

As an African-American conservative, Dr. Carson is about to get an asterisk. Just ask Clarence Thomas, or Thomas Sowell, or David Clarke.

The asterisk is a reference to a 2005 editorial in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, in which the editorial board wrote:

 "In losing a woman, the court with Alito would feature seven white men, one white woman and a black man, who deserves an asterisk because he arguably does not represent the views of mainstream black America."

And I’d like to pass to Dr. Carson what I wrote at the time in a commentary for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute:

This week it became official: it is now acceptable to use racially-charged slurs against African-Americans . . . as long as they are conservative.

[According to the "asterisk" editorial] Clarence Thomas doesn’t count as black, because he doesn’t think or behave like a black  person is supposed to — a not-so-distance echo of the schoolyard jibe that a successful minority student was "acting white."

The "asterisk" for Thomas was not quite as overt as last year’s slur by a Madison talk show host that Condoleeza Rice was an "Aunt Jemima" ..  But the message was the same: you cannot be both conservative and black. And any black who exercises independent thought and breaks with the left can be subjected to the crudest of racial slurs, stereotypes, and reductionism.

The message: Deviate and we will turn on you.

Thus the dark side of diversity: group identity trumps individual identity. If you are a minority, you will be judged not by the content of your character, but by the color of your skin and your willingness to be "representative" of its dominant ideology. Under this logic, had the president appointed Janice Rogers Brown, she would not have counted either as a woman or a black, although she is both. Under the "asterisk" test, minorities only count if they stay on the liberal plantation.

The left’s contempt for conservative minorities is, of course, not new. But it has seldom been stated so bluntly and openly and it comes at a time when the acceptable bigotry of the left is increasingly on display.

The author of the Journal Sentinel editorial, Greg Stanford,  defends reducing Justice Thomas to an "asterisk," by telling one irate reader that because "Thomas often takes stands at odds with mainstream black thought, his appointment does not help the court mirror America as much as it could have — which is what diversity is all about."

He continues: "Noting that Thomas is on the fringes of black thought is merely observing a fact, not stereotyping. Justices Stevens and Ginsburg do represent wide swaths of American thought."

Perhaps unconsciously, Stanford gives away the game: Stevens and Ginsburg — both of whom are white — "represent wide swaths of American thought" — presumably left-wing thought.

But Thomas, who also represents a wide swath of American thought — conservatism — "is on the fringes of black thought."

Note that Stevens and Ginsburg are not described relative to "white thought." They are allowed to think as individuals, not reduced to group representatives. The racial category is reserved for Thomas, who apparently doesn't understand that he is supposed to stay in the intellectual ghetto and not try to be judged by the standards of "American" thought, like his white colleagues. The unstated — but quite clear — assumption is that white justices engage in "American thought," while a black justice is expected/required to engage in "black thought."

The word for this is "apartheid."