Ben Carson's Comment on Slaves = Immigrants: Really So Bad?

Look, I loathe Trump. I think Carson’s an idiot. I’m one of those lefties who thinks BLM deserved to be heard.

But that said, the uproar over Carson calling slaves immigrants (and later qualifying as unwilling) doesn’t seem like it deserves a whole lot of outrage to me. I don’t believe that immigrant has an inherent qualitative attribute, and the google definition is “a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country”

I am open minded if someone has an argument that I’m not seeing, but otherwise we shouldn’t manufacture outrage when there’s so much to really rail against.


Lawyer: “Did you engage in sexual intercourse with the defendant?”

Witness: “He raped me.”

Lawyer: “But did you engage in sexual intercourse with the defendant?”
I don’t know if it matters how “bad” Carson’s statement is, but it sure makes him sound dumb and clueless. Why did he feel compelled to defend (heck, mention) slavery in the first place? The last bullet-wound to his foot had healed and he wanted a fresh one?

What he said was fine, but insufficient. Other countries have had similar success stories. In the late early 1940s, millions of immigrants came by train to Poland, willing to work hard, dreaming of a better life for their kids…

Nope. Nope nope nope. I’m not sure how you can’t see it.

It’s not a horrifying policy, but it’s an appalling attempt to sanitize the story of chattel slavery. Suggesting that the folks who survived slave ships came to America dreaming “that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land” is insane.

Their dreams likely consisted of:

  1. Escape from the folks who kidnapped them, maybe with some vengeance during the escape.
  2. Get back to their homes.
  3. Get their kids the hell out of here.

Remember, he specifically called out “the bottom of slave ships.” We’re not talking about folks born here and enslaved during infancy; sure, plenty of them hoped to escape their enslavers and pursue happiness in this land, but they’re not who we’re talking about. We’re talking about kidnap victims who suffered some of the worst atrocities in human history during their abduction, transport, and sale. Acting like they were all, “Ooh, the American Dream!” is insane.

The point is that an immigrant is someone who moves voluntarily. Someone who is forced to travel to another country is never an immigrant.

I’m not sure that’s true–it’s not called out in any definition I find in a couple moments’ searching. Am I missing some part of the definition?

It is, however, a connotation: when the word “immigrant” is used to describe adults, it almost always describes someone who chose to make the trip.

In the context of his speech, he was conflating two entirely different migration patterns:

  1. People who were kidnapped and forced into slavery in a strange land
  2. People who deliberately left everything they knew behind to go make a new life in a strange land.

These two groups share no common source for dreams, desires, aspirations, beyond those shared by all humans; their reasons for changing nations are as different as can be.

A couple years ago, there was a brouhaha over a textbook that called slaves “workers” and “immigrants.” The textbook editors, on having this pointed out, were appalled and apologized, changing it online almost instantly. Nevertheless this got some news stories, and I wonder if in Carson’s muzzy-headed brain (you can’t overload it, you know!) the original idiotic wording got transformed into something lovely.

Notably, the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves took effect in 1808, though immigration of free persons continued. When Carson describes people in slave ships clinging to the American dream of freedom etc., most of them did their traveling before “America”[sup]*[/sup] even existed.
I’m fond of this part of Carson’s speech:

Buh? The ones that would not accept being captured and enslaved and died trying to defend themselves were the ones to “give up”? The ones with a “brain” were smart enough to surrender and hope for justice one day? So much for “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire, I guess.

[sup]*[/sup] The “United States” part of it, anyway.

I guess technically the African slaves were immigrants. But they did not have the typical immigrant experience.

So I can see how it could be a very loaded term if it compares the history of African-Americans to other groups like Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, or Polish-Americans. There can be an implication of “Everyone came here as immigrants. Those other groups succeeded and you failed.”

If next Fall I capture and buy some birds in New York, stuff my car full of them and drive them to California, sell the survivors to somebody for the Winter who does whatever he/she want to them for the Winter, buy the survivors in the Spring, put them back in my car and drive them to New York, and then do this repeatedly, are these birds now migratory?

Depends - do the birds dream their eggs will be hatched in freedom?


But this question is not relevant to the thread. Birds that ARE called migratory are not called “immigrants.”

Whatever analogy you are trying to make failed completely.

I think two out of three responders got it.

I am glad you can see the distinction between commerce and animals traveling to acquire resources.

You know, they do. I guess the analogy did fall flat.

I’m betting this was a reference to the widespread notion of Native Americans being “unsuitable” for colonial enslavement because they tended to commit suicide or just died of unspecified causes, hence the “giving up” description.

I doubt that this notion is very reliable but it certainly is one of those “common knowledge” things.

I daresay Carson deserves to be challenged on this point by someone saying “Hey, if anyone shows up wanting to kidnap and enslave ME, I’ll kill that fucker with a God-given 2nd-Amendment rights. You gonna say I don’t have a brain? FUCK YOU!”

I tend to agree this one is a little “forced”. I mean in a normal presidency - yeah - this might be something that deserves a news cycle, but we have a president who is a revengeful toddler that believes in conspiracy theories and doesn’t understand how the government (or most other things work).

He’s hired people that specifically are unsuited for their specific cabinet posts.

Really don’t care much about Carsons ignorant views - it’s not like he’s a brain surgeon or something. Oh wait…

Also didn’t really read it - so maybe I missed something, but if the whole deal about Kelly Ann Conway kneeling on the couch was cause it was “disrespectful” to the Oval Office - I don’t give a shit how she sits or stands in the office - I care that the news keeps booking her to rattle off her lies time and time again.

At some point I think these people shouldn’t be invited. When do we draw the line? If someone was hired with the name - “Liar McBullshitter” - do we really need to give them airtime in the quest for being “balanced”.

As far as the Trump surrogates go - he bothers me less than others for some reason - not sure why - as I think he’s an idiot, but he kinda strikes me as the clueless type idiot like Rick Perry vs the evil type idiots that he tends to surround himself with.

Sounds very Uncle Tom to me…the whitest black man you know. But, being that he’s not the sharpest tool in the cabinet (little ‘c’) and he was a brain surgeon, I have to conclude that he grew up in a somewhat more comfortable situation than most others who share his skin color.

Eh, it was a badly phrased segment of his speech but his goal was to laud the history of black Americans who descended from slaves, as people of perseverance and strong will, and strong moral character. Sometimes I do think the intent matters more than the specific verbiage, and it’s a little silly to me a relatively disadvantaged black kid (descended from slaves) like Ben Carson is being called out primarily by white liberals for not being sensitive enough to the history of African forced enslavement and transportation to the Americas.

Obviously being black doesn’t make Dr. Carson right on any and all black racial history topics, but I think it makes the likelihood that he was trying to cover up slavery or be racist in some way to blacks, very, very low. I mean we learned in the primary that Ben Carson has a very singular mind geared around medicine and surgery, and is basically extremely ignorant on most other topics (to the point he was clearly probably the least informed person in the primaries, and he was sharing a debate stage with Donald Trump), so I’m not trying to defend his word usage as good or desirable, but I think the outrage of it, given his intent, is silly and dumb. It’s a very classic “tempest in a teapot” situation, even more ridiculous given the real tempests in a great big sea we’re going through right now to be focusing on such inanities.

It wasn’t the office she was seen as disrespecting, it was the dozens of presidents of historic black colleges and universities that were in the room at the time, meeting with Trump. Curling up on the couch with her phone like a teenager while ignoring fifty or so Very Important Black People is pretty shitty optics, but as is so often the case, that photo is misleading. She’s not ignoring the crowd in that photo, she’s getting her phone ready to film the occasion. Which is just so… weird. Is it just me? Does she not know there are already cameras in the room with her? Is she supposed to be part of the meeting? If she’s part of this photo op, why is her back to the camera? If she’s not, why is she sitting there directly between the photographers and the scene?

Ahh - guess I should have clicked on the article.

Kinda reminds me of how Trump talked about how great he was in front of the CIA Memorial wall - tone deaf.

Unfortunately (some) people have to deal with this administration - wonder if Angela Merkel would suffer through another Bush shoulder rub to trade presidents.

If she’s preparing to take a picture on her phone, it’s almost certainly for the purpose of posting it immediately onto Twitter and other social media.

Seriously, I’m not feeling the outrage here. Compared to things she’s actually said, a snap of her looking at her phone is nothing to fuss about.