Just days after U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos whitewashed the legacy of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson spilled another awful gaffe about black history.
On Monday, Carson referred to African slaves brought to the U.S. as “immigrants” in search of the American dream.
“That’s what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less,” said Carson in front of an audience of federal workers during his first official address as the head of HUD. “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.”
Following the event, a HUD official defended Carson’s remark, saying none of the audience members interpreted Carson’s comments as anything but a “heartfelt introduction to the HUD family,” reports Philly.com.
“He was making a point about people who came to this country for a better life for their kids,” said the senior official. “Nobody in that room put two and two together and came to five. Only the most cynical interpretation would conflate voluntary immigration to this country with involuntary servitude.”
Later, Dr. Carson and his wife, Candy, released a statement on Facebook, where he seemed to walk back his remarks and distinguished the difference between migrants who came to the U.S. voluntarily versus slaves, who were captured and deported against their will. It reads:
“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.”