Carson blunders when referring to slaves as immigrants
After running for president but not winning the Republican nomination, neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson’s short-lived chance at a position in the White House wasn’t completely out of sight.
On March 2, Carson assumed office as President Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Cabinet pick after cabinet pick, it seems like Trump is deliberately selecting people who do not qualify for the positions they were given.
HUD oversees the inner workings of housing in urban neighborhoods. It is supposed to decrease homelessness and increase home ownership, making communities fair, equal and affordable in regard to home-owning.
Carson isn’t a real estate mogul, a realtor or an architect. He’s not even an interior designer. He is a neurosurgeon. It would make more sense for him to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Carson does possess a special attribute that could make it appear he would have the ability to carry out this position properly. It is all in his blackness, but not just any blackness: token blackness.
Trump’s rhetoric left him without major support among the black community, so this is an attempt to lessen their stigma toward him. To Trump, blackness is synonymous with “urban,” so he assigned Carson to take HUD’s reins. Carson hails from impoverished Detroit, so he was the perfect nominee.
While addressing his fellow HUD employees, Carson made an attempt to further progress the disenfranchisement of the black population by referring to slaves as immigrants. His incumbency is already off to a rocky start.
This might have been a good strategy on paper, but it backfired for Carson. While trying to construct a heartwarming speech, he said “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder, for less.” Here are the different layers of how problematic that is:
First, “slave” and “immigrant” are not synonymous. A slave is someone who is the legal property of someone else. An immigrant is someone who takes up residency in a foreign country. It should be noted that immigration occurred by free will, and slavery was forced.
Secondly, giving an alternate connotation to this word makes “slave” and “immigrant” susceptible to being used interchangeably and for the latter to replace the former completely.
Lastly, conflating slavery and immigration takes away the basis of systematic oppression and gives permission to ignore the fabric of America.
Like the running attitude toward all of Trump’s administration, all we can do is hope and wait for Carson to pull the job off. Maybe his past of living in poverty will provide a fresh perspective on the job.
I’d like to see his leadership tackle a big issue never talked about in urban development: gentrification. He needs to build inner cities from the inside out. He could start with Flint, near his hometown of Detroit.