On Monday, former presidential hopeful and current Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson caught flak for referring to slaves as “immigrants.”
In a speech describing America as the “land of dreams and opportunity,” Carson 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.
The Twitter backlash was swift:
The New York Times reports the Department of Housing and Urban Development was “stunned” by the uproar. The agency released a statement saying critics of Carson’s word choice were taking the remark out of context.
The conservative muckraking site Breitbart was quick to point out on Tuesday that Barack Obama had also referred to slaves as “immigrants” in a December 2015 speech at the National Archives in Washington DC.
Here’s the excerpt from Obama’s speech, which was delivered as part of a naturalization ceremony for new immigrants:
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. There was discrimination and hardship and poverty. But, like you, they no doubt found inspiration in all those who had come before them. And they were able to muster faith that, here in America, they might build a better life and give their children something more.
The full text of the speech is available on the website of the Obama administration archives.