"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."
-- Ben Carson, new Secretary of HUD
Hence the phrase, apparently, of "slave wages."
This was the first speech that Carson has made since being named HUD Secretary by Trump. It doesn't bode well. On the other hand, at least it shows Carson was right when he was first-rumored for a cabinet job and said he wasn't qualified.
Yes, he really said, this. Honest. That this is what America is about -- slaves being forceably brought here in chains. Working for "less." (Note: "Less" in this case will be defined as "nothing.") O the dreams. O the opportunity. So wondrous that they were really just "immigrants," that's all.
The problem is that the speech got even worse. He continued --
"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.”
I'm just going to make a guess -- and this is really only a total guess, not based on any direct knowledge -- that when these slaves were crammed in the bottom of a slave ship and chained and flogged, they weren't dreaming of prosperity and happiness in this land. They were most likely hoping and praying to survive the ocean voyage and not die, and then somehow figure out a way to get back to their homeland in Africa. But again, that's just a guess.
Swell, the one time "immigrants" came to America without visa or green cards or any form of identification, and they weren't turned back at the border. It's probably the very time an "immigrant" reached America's shores and dearly would have prayed for a Trump travel ban and sent back home.
According to reports in the room where Carson was addressing HUD employees, there was near-silence in the room when Carson made his remarks.
And this doesn't even touch on his comments about drilling into the heads of old people and attaching electrodes to the hippocampus of the brain to bring up the text of books read 60 years ago. Never mind that scientists have roundly dismissed this as NOT being how the brain works, and that as a neurosurgeon this is Dr. Carson's field of expertise!! Hey, at least he didn't add, "Drill, baby, drill."
No, we can put the hippocampus aside and only sit aghast at Ben Carson's comments about slaves as "immigrants" with dreams of happiness in the New World.
The mantra with Trump and his administration has been, "Imagine if Barack Obama said this." And yes, of course, the response would have justified outrage. But forget the idea of what if President Obama had said this. What if anyone white said this. Imagine further if White Supremacist Steve Bannen said this, calling slaves mere "immigrants." Full of dreams in their slave ships for a wonderful future of happiness. And that is what America was about. Just imagine.
Then again, Carson's comments shouldn't have come as a total shock, given that he has a history of utterly misunderstanding slavery. Far be it from me to lecture Ben Carson on slavery, but I think even I know that Obamacare -- which provided low-cost health care to those in financial need -- was not (as Carson described in in 2013) "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."
But there he is once more. Referring to slaves merely as "immigrants." Talking about slaves on their way to dreams and opportunity. Explaining that this is what America is about. And this is the man, without any experience, who is now in charge of Housing and Urban Development.
That's not a slum. It's a palace of hope.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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