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Does Ben Carson Know The Difference Between Slaves And Immigrants?

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Does Ben Carson Know The Difference Between Slaves And Immigrants?

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Ben Carson, slaves

A hypothetical narrative for your consideration:

A man climbs through the window of a sleeping girl. She stirs awake and starts to scream, but he punches her with a closed fist. Brandishing a gun, he vows to kill her parents, asleep in the next room, if she makes another sound. She nods in tearful comprehension and he is upon her, tearing at her night clothes. Then he violently makes love to her.

It could be argued that there’s nothing wrong with the foregoing description. After all, the basic mechanics of love making and rape are the same: sexual intercourse. But if you understand why that argument would be specious and offensive, please explain it to Ben Carson. The new secretary of Housing and Urban Development just described slaves as “immigrants.”

This happened Monday in a speech before HUD staff. Carson waxed eloquent about America as a nation built by people from other places, then 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.”

But the slaves were no more “immigrants” than rape is making love. Nor is it difficult to tell the difference.

Immigrants booked passage and came to these shores in steerage, enduring heat, stench and cramped conditions in hopes of better lives in America. Slaves were kidnapped and came to these shores shackled, lying cheek to cheek in their own body waste.

Immigrants disembarked at Ellis Island where they endured questioning and health inspections before being allowed to enter the country. Slaves disembarked at places like Annapolis, Charleston, and Savannah, where families were snatched away from one another, had their bodies probed by foreign fingers, then were sold at auction, sometimes on credit.

Immigrants stood staring up at the towers of New York City and were daunted and inspired by the universe of possibilities they represented. Slaves stood staring down at fields of cotton or tobacco, at an overseer’s whip, at a thin mattress of corn shucks in a tiny cabin where winter’s icy breath came slicing through the cracks, and tried to understand that this was life now, and that death would be their only freedom.

Immigrants relocated. Slaves were relocated. They had no more say in the matter than a chair moved from one side of a room to the other.

After being excoriated for his apparent ignorance of this, Carson issued a statement on Facebook that said that the immigrant and slave experiences were different and “should never be intertwined.” Which doesn’t explain why he did exactly that.

It’s hard not to see this as part of an ongoing campaign by the political right to arrogate or neuter entirely the language of politics and social grievance. Consider how, in the last 25 years, “liberal” and “feminist” became curse words and “racism” was redefined as “speaking about race.” Now it’s becoming sadly common to hear enslaved Africans described as “workers,” “settlers,” and, yes, “immigrants.”

Words, you must understand, have weight and effect. So this campaign is neither incidental nor accidental. No, like Holocaust denial, it is an attempt to minimize and trivialize a crucible of agony, to rob it of pathos, to render it unworthy of reverence. It’s heartbreaking to have to explain to anyone why this is wrong.

It’s pathetic to have to explain it to a 65-year-old African-American man.

IMAGE: Republican candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks during the Heritage Action for America presidential candidate forum in Greenville, South Carolina, September 18, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Keane

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Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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27 Comments

  1. ⭐️ I Am Helpy ⭐️ March 8, 2017

    In the same speech, he claimed he could induce perfect recall of a specific memory by putting electrodes on a part of the brain that does not control recall. There is no factual basis for this assertion. He is nuts.

    Reply
    1. Marnipreed March 9, 2017

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      Reply
    2. 788eddie March 9, 2017

      I have no problem if he wants to try that on himself first, though.

      Reply
  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth March 8, 2017

    Ben needs to be put out to pasture—he long ago pawned his education for a cheap imitation of education called Conservative Ideology, along with a lot of bogus misinformation that must have been imprinted on his neurons.

    It is a certainty that thousands of Irish citizens during the Potato Famine in the mid 19th century died en route to America on disease-infested ships, as a response to the combination of lack of the staple potato crop along with eviction; millions were evicted from their land and homes by greedy British landlords, as a result of an inhumane tight-fisted fiscal policy and a bigotry towards Irish in general, and against Catholicism in particular. (Kind of reminiscent of the GOP’s general outlook today, and their lack of concern for others).

    Ben is becoming more and more like a modern-day Step-n-Fetchit, which is galling and cause for consternation. Is the GOP influence that mind-altering as to scramble Ben’s mind like eggs in a skillet??

    What Ben fails to understand, and which is baffling for a man who went through university and medical school training, is the difference between immigrants and slaves—the latter were forced to leave their homes on demand by a stronger group of people, put on ships and sold upon arrival. Immigrants decide of their own accord to leave a place to settle elsewhere—yes, some were indentured servants, but were able to gain their freedom and become an integral part of American life. The same process did not happen for slaves from the west coast of Africa.

    Reply
    1. ⭐️ I Am Helpy ⭐️ March 8, 2017

      He’s a great example of education being no guide to intelligence (or sanity).

      Reply
    2. dbtheonly March 9, 2017

      Aaron, I think you’re being unfair. Carson’s point wasn’t how the people were brought to America, it’s what they did once they got here. Despite being held in slavery, they never lost their hope for freedom.

      Slaves, or rather former slaves, did indeed win freedom for all. The US Colored Troops were 20% of the Union Army at the end of the war.

      Descendants of slaves played, and continue to play, a role in American life. If there is still injustice, if we’re not where we ought to be, the positive and uplifting attitudes of slave descendants is our only hope of ending those injustices.

      Reply
      1. FireBaron March 9, 2017

        Ironically enough, Robert E. Lee also proposed raising “Negro Regiments” to fight for the Confederacy. When asked by Jefferson Davis how he expected to get them to return to slavery, he replied that he didn’t. He intended to have them keep their freedom and be used to fight against Indians in the newly acquired territories. In this, they were envisioned as a precursor to the Buffalo Soldiers of the 1870s to early 1910s. Davis rejected the idea even though the Confederacy was badly losing, and not having enough “White” men to replace the fallen.
        While people like Lee, Joe Johnston and Longstreet could envision a future of freed slaves in the Confederacy, people like Davis, Beauregard, Morgan and Forrest could not see past the ends of their noses that their way of life was soon to pass.

        Reply
        1. dbtheonly March 9, 2017

          Indeed, but the very existence of the Confederacy was founded upon slavery. It is amusing to watch the apologists claim the war was economic in nature. One was going on when I asked exactly what economics he was speaking of. He, graciously, acknowledged that the Southern economy was based in slavery and the “economic argument” is just a way to try to deny the obvious.

          The Confederate conscription act also shows the primacy of the slavery issue.

          There always will be work to do to make America Greater. The attitudes of our immigrants, willing or forced, play a huge role in that progress. I think that was Carson’s point.

          Reply
          1. jmprint March 9, 2017

            You think, but like Trump they need to say what they mean, without people having to say “I think what he was saying…”

            Reply
          2. dbtheonly March 9, 2017

            It goes back to the RW furor over President Obama’s, you didn’t build this quote. They ignored what he said & focused on a few words. I though the RW actions appallingly petty.

            But we can’t lower ourselves to that level.

            Just read what Carson said. Agree or not, but be fair to the guy. Because we’re better than what they did to President Obama.

            Reply
          3. jmprint March 10, 2017

            Taking things out of context is not the same as trying to assume what one meant.

            Reply
      2. The lucky one March 9, 2017

        ” If there is still injustice, if we’re not where we ought to be, the positive and uplifting attitudes of slave descendants is our only hope of ending those injustices.”

        IF???? Positive and uplifting attitudes are fine but statements like yours, questioning whether there is still injustice make it clear that perceptions among some members of the white population will need an attitude change before we achieve anything resembling justice.

        Reply
        1. dbtheonly March 9, 2017

          You’d be happier with “since” rather than “if”?

          Reply
          1. The lucky one March 9, 2017

            Well it would signify that you appreciate that racism and the injustice it produces does in fact exist and prevents us from being where we ought to be, so yes.

            Reply
      3. Dapper Dan March 9, 2017

        It’s tragic how they came to America but today Blacks are an integral party of our society. I feel very fortunate and grateful that when we finally elected America’s first African American President we got eight years of strong stable leadership which we’re sorely lacking right now. When some numb nut says to go back where you came from that would apply to every American that’s not a Native American

        Reply
        1. jmprint March 9, 2017

          And yet still they are treating the Native American as they don’t count, recounting Dakota.

          Reply
    3. Savvory Champion March 9, 2017

      Your last paragraph summarizes and what seems to have escaped Ben’s reasoning. He should read your comments and then maybe do a little reflection as to why his comments were met with disgust and anger.

      Reply
      1. Gilbert West March 9, 2017

        Poor Ben Carson… He simply does not appreciate the difference between having been “trained” and having been “educated.” It is possible for one who has been well-trained to perform in a remarkable manner…To be educated, however, one’s learning must go beyond the parameters of a particular skill-set, and be capable of reasoning in the abstract, of connecting dots that are not already plotted. Ben should have recognized that he does not have the background and preparation necessary to succeed in politics…and that by accepting a job that is outside his training and skill-set, he would be cutting himself off from his areas of strength.

        Reply
  3. Daniel Jones March 8, 2017

    Dear Leonard:

    I agree.

    Likewise, since words matter, I believe the time has come to use frank terms and eschew the PC hogwash.

    The “alt-right” are fascists, even if they themselves are unaware of this fact due to the aforementioned war of words.

    The President is a unrepentant liar.

    The press buys into libel in order to seek access to what the President is saying.

    The Congress constantly and consistently acts in its own interests, in the very face of and against the interest of their own constituencies.

    The Supreme Court is a complete mockery of jurisprudence as currently situated.

    And the vital departments of endeavor in this government are repeatedly headed by people that either have no clue about or are financially inclined against their jobs.

    When I hear some fool say, “But this is America!” like it’s some holy formula against corruption, I just laugh bitterly. If you need to know why, re-read the above.

    Reply
    1. The lucky one March 9, 2017

      “Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and promoted by mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shite by the clean end.”

      Reply
  4. A_Real_Einstein March 9, 2017

    Carson is a total moron. This is a demonstration of the utter failure of the American education system. WE have a full generation of baby boomers who are complete idiots.

    Reply
    1. Wrily March 9, 2017

      You’re painting with a mighty broad brush there. Do you really think it wise to alienate an entire generation of people?

      Reply
    2. Dapper Dan March 9, 2017

      And to think he’s a brain surgeon. There’s a disconnect somewhere. Dr. Carson heal thyself

      Reply
  5. Laura Davidson March 9, 2017

    It sounds like Ms Conway wrote Carson’s response. Like she does for everyone else in this gang of bumbling idiots. She must be missing a lot of sleep these days. She sure looks it.

    Reply
  6. Ken Walker March 9, 2017

    We all saw Ben Carson’s ignorance on full display during the Republican primaries. Perhaps there should be an investigation into Carson’s educational background and medical practices. He’s too dumb to have achieved the things he’s claimed.

    Reply
    1. Gilbert West March 9, 2017

      I can’t figure out why Ben Carson was appointed to head Housing & Urban Development… areas where he is decidedly lacking in skill…As to his medical prowess…he is reputed to be a good surgeon, which could mean that he has a steady, gifted pair of hands in addition to a knowledge of anatomy, and therefore, developed the motor skills to succeed as a surgeon. It doesn’t follow, however, that the gifted hands will be an asset in housing/urban development…unless he is also a carpenter or brick mason.

      Reply
  7. jmprint March 9, 2017

    Ben Carson is such a brilliant ignorant individual.

    Reply

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