With the ups and downs of the Housing and Urban Development from Harlem to Hollywood, our source reports that Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson referred to African slaves as “immigrants” in a speech to department employees Monday while discussing the concept of America as the land of “dreams and opportunity.”
“That’s what America is about,” he said. “A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came her in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less.”
He continued: “But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandsons, great granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”
Some observers pointed out that it’s odd, and potentially inappropriate, to refer to slaves as “immigrants” when they were trafficked across the ocean and sold as property.
Merriam-Webster noted on Twitter that “immigrant” was its fourth most looked-up word around 5 p.m. Monday. It defined an immigrant as “a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence.” Since slaves were forced to come to the United States, and therefore did not come for their own purpose, it may be a stretch to characterize them as immigrants.
It’s not the first time Carson’s references to slavery have drawn criticism.
“You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” he said in 2013 at a Values Voter Summit. “And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images