Newly elected Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson is in the midst of controversy over startling remarks comparing slaves brought to U.S. to immigrants. The comments equated the hard work of slaves to that of immigrants in search of “a land of dreams and opportunity.”
“There were other immigrants who came in the bottom of slave ships, who worked even longer, even harder, for less, 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.”
The comparison sparked immediate outrage and anger from many online.
HUD Spokesmen Brian Sullivan attempted to clarify Carson’s statement, saying, “Nobody here believes he was equating voluntary immigration with involuntary servitude,” however the damage was already done. Numerous people lashed out on social media showing disdain for Carson’s statements.
Amid the controversy, Carson released a statement via Facebook late Monday late night clarifying that slaves and immigrants had “two entirely different experiences.”
I’m proud of the courage and perseverance of Black Americans and their incomprehensible struggle from slavery to freedom. I’m proud that our ancestors overcame the evil and repression that we know as slavery.
The slave narrative and immigrant narrative are two entirely different experiences. Slaves were ripped from their families and their homes and forced against their will after being sold into slavery by slave traders.
The Immigrants made the choice to come to America. They saw this country as a land of opportunity. In contrast, slaves were forced here against their will and lost all their opportunities. We continue to live with that legacy.
The two experiences should never be intertwined, nor forgotten, as we demand the necessary progress towards an America that’s inclusive and provides access to equal opportunity for all.
We should revel in the fact that although we got here through different routes, we have many things in common now that should unite us in our mission to have a land where there is liberty and justice for all.
Dr. Ben Carson
Secretary of HUD