Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is facing backlash for referring to slaves as “immigrants,” reports USA Today.
The retired neurosurgeon made the controversial comment during a speech to agency employees on Monday.
In a video of the talk, which was posted to HUD’s Facebook page, he starts off by saying, “One of the things that you will notice in this department under my leadership is that there will be a very big emphasis on fairness for everybody.”
He eventually talks about immigrants to the U.S., saying, “They worked not for themselves, but for their sons and their daughters, their grandsons and their granddaughters, that they might have an opportunity in this land. That’s what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity.”
Carson then tells the audience, “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day, their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters…might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”
He adds, “This is our opportunity to enhance that dream.”
In response to a tweet about the story, one person wrote back, “Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think people who were kidnapped, chained & shipped halfway across the world are immigrants.”
The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect also condemned the comparison, saying in a statement, “No, Secretary Carson. Slaves didn’t immigrate to America. They were brought here violently, against their own will, and lived here without freedom. You do not get a pass because you are African-American…”
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