WASHINGTON – Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has defended his controversial comments in which he referred to American slaves as immigrants.
Carson was slammed on social media after his remarks, which were made during his first address to HUD employees on Monday.
Praising the work ethics of immigrants, Carson said in his speech:
“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,” said Carson, who is black.
Hundreds of people, including journalists and celebrities – most notably actor Samuel L. Jackson – blasted Carson on social media.
HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan tried to clarify Carson’s statement, saying, “Nobody here believes he was equating voluntary immigration with involuntary servitude.”
Later on Monday, during an interview on SiriusXM’s “Armstrong Williams Show,” Carson attempted to explain his remarks.
“You can be an involuntary immigrant,” Carson said. “I think people need to actually look up the world ‘immigrant.’ Whether you’re voluntary or involuntary, if you come from outside to the inside, you’re an immigrant. … Slaves came here as involuntary immigrants.”
But Monday evening, Carson backtracked in a Facebook posting:
“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,” he wrote.
“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.”
Carson was just confirmed to his post on Thursday. His nomination was controversial, with many Democrats citing the retired neurosurgeon’s lack of government experience.