Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson said on March 6 that some immigrants came on "slave ships" to the U.S. (video below).
Carson made his remarks during a speech to the government employees who work at HUD, notes The Daily Beast:
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. 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.
Carson went on to say that the U.S. is the only country "to allow all those people to realize their dream."
The NAACP responded to Carson's speech on Twitter: "Immigrants???"
Carson issued a follow-up statement on Facebook in which he told others not to intertwine slaves and immigrants:
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.
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.
The Washington Post notes that Carson also told the government employees, during his speech, about his "THINK BIG" philosophy to "unleash potential," which he has written about in his books.
Carson also told all the employees to "take the niceness pledge," which reportedly went as follows: "Just raise your hand, everybody raise your hand. Now what did you just pledge to do? Be nice to every single person you encounter for one week, including your spouse!"