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Trump’s housing secretary says slaves in the US were hard-working “immigrants” with dreams of a better life

Getty Images/Justin Sullivan
By Max de Haldevang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Black History Month just ended in the US. You can tell because president Donald Trump’s only African-American cabinet member just described slaves as “immigrants” with dreams of prosperity in America.

“There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less,” said Ben Carson in his first speech to his staff since being confirmed as Trump’s housing secretary. “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.”

Just a week before, education secretary Betsy DeVos said that America’s historically black colleges and universities were “pioneers” of school choice. In fact, they were a result of racial segregation. Carson’s comment, similarly, implies that African Americans who were brought over and made to work as slaves had some kind of choice in the matter.

It’s not Carson’s first misstep on matters of history—he once said he believes Egyptian pyramids were originally built ”to store grain.” Nor is he particularly progressive when it comes to race issues in his new brief; his only publicly stated opinion about housing policy before taking his current job was that desegregation was a bad idea, and would join the “history of failed socialist experiments in this country.”

The actor Samuel L. Jackson led the chorus of the unimpressed on Twitter:

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