by Dolapo Adelana
The US Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Ben Carson on Monday referred to slaves brought to the United States against their will as “immigrants,” drawing quick condemnation from civil rights groups who cast his remarks as offensive.
Carson made the remark on Monday during his first address to the staff at HUD.
Carson began his speech by sharing tales from his past career as a neurosurgeon and praised immigrants who worked long hours to build a better life for their children.
“There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less,” said Carson, who is African-American.
“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,” he said.
Carson’s remark was not taken lightly as enslaved blacks did not visit America voluntarily and were denied freedom for over a hundred years.
“This is as offensive a remark as it gets,” said Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.
The remarks sparked outrage on Twitter, including from actor Samuel L. Jackson.
OK!! Ben Carson….I can't! Immigrants ? In the bottom of SLAVE SHIPS??!! MUTHAFUKKA PLEASE!!!#dickheadedtom
— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) March 6, 2017
The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) also criticised Carson.
A HUD spokesman later called the tempest “the most cynical interpretation of the secretary’s remarks to an army of welcoming HUD employees. No one honestly believes he equates voluntary immigration with involuntary servitude.”
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Dolapo is a writer and journalist who works with YNaija. He has interests in Christianity, politics and sports.