Ben Carson: ‘Immigrants’ Came to U.S. in the ‘Bottom of Slave Ships’

The new secretary of HUD is under fire for a controversial speech where he describes enslaved men and women as immigrants.

Dr. Ben S. Carson Sr. was sworn in March 2 as the 17th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Carson now leads a Cabinet agency with approximately 8,000 employees and oversees an annual budget totaling more than $40 billion.

In his very first speech to HUD employees on Monday, Carson attempted to boost morale by likening enslaved African men and women to immigrants.

The retired neurosurgeon’s 40-minute address included discussion of the brain. “Have you ever heard people say, ‘Don’t do that or you’ll overload your brain?’” Carson said. “You can’t overload the human brain … so, we need to concentrate a little less on what we can’t do and a little more on what we can do.”

He then made the transition to discussing “what America is about.”

“A land of dreams and opportunity,” he said. “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, great grandsons, great granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

An immigrant chooses to leave his or her homeland to live permanently in a foreign country. Hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans were brought to the United States by force, not by choice.

Did Carson Pay Attention During Recent Museum Trip?

Carson and his wife, Candy, along with Ivanka Trump and adviser Omarosa Manigault, joined President Donald Trump for a tour of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C., on February 21. Museum director Lonnie Bunch accompanied the group.

“Ship Full of Sorrow” at National Museum of African American History and Culture. / SHERYL ESTRADA

The NMAAHC, created through an act of Congress, is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history and culture.

Carson’s achievements in medicine are featured in an exhibit in the museum a few floors above the Slavery and Freedom exhibition, which vividly explores the history of slavery. It begins with 15th century Africa and Europe, continuing through the founding of the United States, and ends with the nation’s transformation during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The museum states, “Visitors encounter both free and enslaved African Americans’ contributions to the making of America and explore the economic and political legacies of the making of modern slavery.”

Again, Carson stated in his speech on Monday, “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships.”

The NMAAHC explains the experience of Africans enduring The Middle Passage in a “Ship Full of Sorrow”:

“Tens of thousands of slave ships traversed the Atlantic carrying human cargo to an uncertain future. Enslaved people rebelled on one in 10 voyages. Rather than endure the horrors of enslavement, many jumped into the shark-infested waters. An elderly enslaved man stated ‘the iron entered into our souls,’ as he described the rattling shackles that ripped off the skin of the captive Africans.”

The museum does not refer to enslaved men and women as immigrants.

Related Story

Ben Carson on Why He’s Qualified to be HUD Secretary: ‘I Grew Up in the Inner City’

Ben Carson on Why He’s Qualified to be HUD Secretary: ‘I Grew Up in the Inner City’

Carson, president-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead housing and urban development in the U.S., recently called fair housing “communist.”

If it were not for the courage and strength of African Americans who demanded their freedom, Carson would not have been a neurosurgeon and director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center for 30 years, and he certainly would not have been walking around a museum dedicated to African American culture as a member of the Trump administration.

Carson’s Use of the Word ‘Immigrant’

Brian Sullivan, a HUD spokesman, said Monday, “Nobody here believes [Carson] was equating voluntary immigration with involuntary servitude.”

However, John Singler, a professor emeritus at New York University, told DiversityInc that Carson’s use of “immigrant” was out of line.

“To think the two words ‘immigrant’ and ‘slave’ can be interchanged is outrageous,” said Singler, an expert in the sociolinguistics of West Africa and the African diaspora. “Africans came to the United States because they were kidnapped. They had no choice in the matter.”

It seems Carson likens the act of slavery more to the Obama’s administration’s Affordable Care Act than to the actual enslavement of African Americans.

Related Story

FOX News contributor Ben Carson said the Affordable Care Act is like slavery.

‘It Is Slavery’: FOX News Contributor on Affordable Care Act

On the job for just a matter of days, FOX News’ newest contributor takes conservative condemnation of the healthcare law to a new level.

“You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” Carson told a crowd at the 2013 Value Voters summit in Washington. “And … it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about healthcare. It was about control.”

Late Monday, in a Facebook post, Carson explained the “slave narrative” and the “immigrant narrative” as “two entirely different experiences.”

He also said, “We should revel in the fact that although we got here through different routes we have many things in common now.”

Many were offended that Carson did not make that distinction in his speech and voiced their opinion on social media:

Michael Blake, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee:

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

Recommended Articles

26 comments


    • Charity Dell

      SHERI–He WAS a brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon at onetime. I have NO idea when the deterioation began.
      A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE.

  • Apparently, you can “overload a human brain” if Carson truly equates immigrants who strike out for a new land in search of a better life with the kidnapped victims of human trafficking, some of whom committed suicide rather than complete the journey.

    • Charity Dell

      GRANNYBUNNY–A brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon at one time, reduced to this.
      I do not know when the derailment occurred, but it had already taken place prior
      to the election.

      A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE.

  • Another example of another unqualified person in this administration. He comes across as a buffoon. Very sad for all of us.

    • Charity Dell

      EMM–

      Let this be a lesson to you–you STILL have to take your multiple vitamins
      and folic acid (B3) when you retire! :-)

  • This is the most ridiculous comment. We are all in trouble.

    I have no words.

  • Birds of a feather……… There is clearly a noticeable trend in the pumkin’s err. sorry President Pumpkin’s Cabinet and staff. Intellectually deficient, inability to articulate a cogent thoughts, act with behavior and presence fit for their roles and responsibilities, and an indescribable lack of humanity. And I’ve barely scratched the surface.

    • Charity Dell

      MARK R–Yes!

      President Pumpkin and all the other pumpkins are literally “out of their gourds.” :-) LOL

      1. Q. Does the elevator go all the way to the top?
      A. Wrong question. Elevators have never been installed.

      Q. Can any Administration member “articulate a cogent thought?”
      A. Wrong question. “Cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am) does NOT work in reverse–“Sum, ergo cogito” (I am,
      therefore I think).

      Q. Is the President and Administration “able to act with behavior and presence fit for their roles and responsibilities?”
      A. Yes, when the entire Sahara Desert is lush, green and fertile again.

      Q. Can they compensate for the lack of humanity?
      A. Yes, when it is possible to swap their alien DNA with human DNA.

  • Obama, December 2015:
    “And perhaps, like some of you, these new arrivals might have had some moments of doubt, wondering if they had made a mistake in leaving everything and everyone they ever knew behind, So life in America was not always easy. It wasn’t always easy for new immigrants. Certainly it wasn’t easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily, and yet in their own way were immigrants themselves.”

    Start screaming, please.

    • “in their own way” is the modifying phrase that makes all the difference. The other difference is that President Obama did not come across as befuddled, confused and obtuse about issues of race – which, in the case of Dr. Carson, is probably a symptom of Stockholm syndrome.

      • Charity Dell

        GRANNYBUNNY–Trump is what happens when too many people in a nation
        WASTE THEIR MINDS WORSHIPING WHITE MALENESS, instead of finding
        solutions for the REAL PROBLEMS Americans face, including homelessness,
        lack of UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE, climate change effects on
        crops; seismic activity due to fracking; repairing of infrastructure, including
        the interstate highway system; and the fact that “globalization” meant the
        deliberate destruction of the American economy by the corporations that
        fled to Asia so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes to the state governments.

        The Kingdom of Arctic Whiteness is run by the Cabinet of Icicles, who
        believe that Americans outside the White Frost Billionaire Circle deserve
        to die.

        GOD HELP AMERICA!

  • Dr. Carson doesn’t believe this.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDivYNKCD6g

    This is a distraction and everyone is falling for it. People falling for the “banana in the tailpipe.”

    You pay attention to the BS while Trump’s administration is doing whatever and at any cost that won’t affect them.

  • MARGARET OPINE

    i’M GOING TO STRETCH THIS BUT DR. CARSON HAS BEEN “PRECIOUS” FOR A WHILE NOW.
    (In the old dialect that means he isn’t making much sense.) But I’m suggesting that Dr. Carson doesn’t feel right about the word “slave” attached to his ancestry. Well. I feel the exact same way. I have a book project to complete called “THEY WERE NEVER SLAVES”….I introduced this book project to a mixed audience sometime back and black folk complained ferociously. So I changed my introduction to this: “””””MY ANCESTRY WERE NEVER SLAVES””””” but you can say your ancestry were slaves if you want, that’s on you.

    I and some other people studied this event in human history: the stealing and kidnapping and the dehumanizing and atrocitizing of ”””””millions upon millions””””’ (in this article here the writer says ””thousands upon thousands””’—a much bigger error than what Carson contrived). The research indicates that thousands died before they were put on board the ships because they were kept in “pens” under dehumanizing conditions. The goal was to take away their person and incorporate their soul with the term “slave” for their souls incorporation. They were to ”’become”” a slave by force. Cruelty was the price if one refused: so the first lesson the Africans of many tongues had to learn was to “act” like what was desired and to respond to the language the atrocitor used to avoid horrendous violence their person. The research indicated that all the ports kept some records but one port kept extraordinary exact records and…. from that port alone it was recorded that six million people were taken. A researcher eventually coined the phrase: from 6 to 66 to 600 million were stolen and process from all of the ports and other planes. (No one knows all total but this is what was said to capture ””666””’, which means ””evil””’, with means ”””Satan’s Work””’.) Put that stain on the souls of the people who committed the atrocity not on the ancestors.
    But only about half that number arrived suitable for market. So the Atlantic Ocean is the graveyard of untold numbers of Africans.
    Well. You have to do your own research if you care. But when I began to realize that (a) There is no such thing as “a slave”. There is just some really cruel, dehumanizing people who want to feel that they won and that they are almighty…they intended to win the soul of a person, that they were able to create called a “slave”…(they hoped or intended to create ”’a slave”” but history clearly states whenever or not whenever….OUR ANCESTRY TRIED TO ESCAPE AND LEAVE SLAVERY WHENEVER THEY COULD NO MATTER WHAT: now does that sound like somebody was successful in making them “slaves”. No. They acted like what they had to act like to keep their limbs and their sight.

    I decided to honor my ancestry by not ever referring to them as “a slave” or “as slaves” because that’s like hitting them with that whip or club or committing rape upon them. I want to honor them. How can I do that? How can I really do that? Easy. I speak with ”honor”’ upon them. I can use the word ”'”enslaved””’ not ””slave””. I won’t call my ancestry “slaves”, In fact, now that I know….. I won’t call anyone’s ancestry “slaves” caught in the same predicament. Anybody can be caught in that predicament.

    “slave” is a noun, a name, which is what they hoped to produce.
    “enslaved” is a verb, an act that somebody does to another. One is an “””enslaver””” when one does evil atrocity. DON’T BE PUTTING NO NAMES ON MY ANCESTRY….NAME THE ENSLAVER….PUT THE BLAME WHERE IT BELONGS. DON’T BLAME THE VICTIMS.
    THE USE OF THE WORD ‘”””SLAVE””’ IS TO INFER THAT THE VICTIM MADE THEM SELF A SLAVE. THINK ABOUT IT and STOP CALLING YOUR ANCESTRY A “SLAVE”.

    TRY CHANGING YOUR LEXICON. Back in the day we couldn’t do that. But this is a time when we all should be telling people all over the world that people are never slaves: they are ”’enslaved.”’

    LISTEN….LISTEN TO ME GOOD…..Enslaving people and creating slavery with laws and such is not A BLACK EXPERIENCE. IT IS….AND ALWAYS WILL BE: ‘ A HUMAN EXPERIENCE.’
    My ancestry was caught in a bind and used and beaten and worked and beaten and starved and raped and lynched, alll that….but Lord Have Mercy….don’t you dare think that slavery is ever over. You can become a advocate or activist against human slavery. It is estimated that between 200,000 to 4 million people are held in bondage right now and dehumanized and forced to ””act””’ like what’s called a slave….in AMERICA. Right now. And there are rings in Europe selling European kids and women and young boys as “””sex slaves”””.

    CHANGE YOUR LEXICON PLEASE AND NEVER USED THE WORD ”’SLAVE”” AGAIN; SAY “ENSLAVED.”
    Now….can you forgive Dr. Carson? That’s what he is trying to say. If you change your lexicon as I suggest and say “enslaved”….it won’t take you long to realize that they were ”’forced immigrants”’ so it don’t hurt you so much, so badly…. that people kidnapped your ancestry and dehumanized them for centuries. Plus the fact: it will water-down that word ””emigrants””” and damper its prestige.
    ”En” means action, somebody had to do it, “enslaved” takes the sting off. AND, realizing that slavery and holocausts (in the case of the people in Germany) and genocide + holocaust: the native Americans and even encampment of certain immigrants like the Japanese so they can be robbed of their land and homes……(see? Evil. Dehumanizing. Enslaving. It’s a part of life.) Become an activist.

    While you’re at it, please change your lexicon and not call a little baby upon its first breathe of American air on American soil: ”””’a bastard.”” No child is ””a bastard ”””in America. Change your lexicon please. Thank You.
    –Margaret Opine

    • Well, we have Holocaust deniers and climate change deniers, and now we have a “slave” denier. Calling someone a slave is not demeaning them; they didn’t enslave themselves. Why should anyone even want to “take the sting off” of the harsh reality of slavery? That being said, I totally agree that no child should ever be called a “bastard” or “illegitimate.” Regardless of the marital status of ones parents, all are equal in the eyes of God.

      • Charity Dell

        GRANNYBUNNY–History is what it is, and as an African-American, I am NOT ashamed to use the
        word slave or any other word which describes VICTIMIZATION. Slavery was and is a fact of most
        human civilizations throughout the millennia of human existence. The SHAME is in the PERPETRATORS,
        NOT the victims!

  • Before Ben Carson campaigned the presidency, I was impressed with his accomplishments as a brain surgeon. I thought he had to be brilliant and intuitive to have achieve his apparent success. His past and recent statements have brought back a quote my 6th grade teacher quoted often ” It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt” . Mr. Carson (because he is my elder) is a simple-minded and foolish man. I cringe whenever a news report airs about him. This is like a nightmare that never ends. He is as disgraceful as Clarence Thomas…….and that’s no small feat.

    • Charity Dell

      MRS. PAIGE–That’s what happens when folks do not CONTINUE:

      1. Taking their BRAIN PILLS–Vitamins like B3(folic acid); and
      2. Lifelong Learning.

      Dr. Carson at one time was a brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon, but he appears to have
      no knowledge of anything outside what he used to do. He needs to start doing brain-building
      exercises, such as learning a language; playing chess on a regular basis; reading multiple
      books throughout the week; researching ANY topic, etc.

      THE MIND IS A TERRIBLE THINGTO WASTE!

« Previous Article     Next Article »