WASHINGTON, D.C. — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson seemed to compound the issue that many people had with his recent comments about African slaves when he addressed his first press conference since being confirmed by the Senate.
Carson doubled-down on seemingly insensitive and nonsensical rhetoric about slaves that he’d made in his first official appearance as HUD Scretary. Carson would call those slaves brought to the United States as “dark skinned, unpaid interns,” and that the United States may have been wrong to end slavery because it was federal overreach into the free market and deprived them of “valuable work experience.”
Carson made heads turn yesterday when he said that slaves were “immigrants” who came to America and “worked even longer, even harder for less.” As reported in The Huffington Post, Carson’s comments baffled many who didn’t see how one could view forced manual labor and kidnapping from one’s homeland could be considered “immigration.”
“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.” (source)
“Now, a lot of people have gotten a little perturbed at me for what I said yesterday,” Carson said, rubbing sleep from his eyes and yawning throughout the press conference, “but I think that’s because they have a government-issued education and don’t think for themselves. If you ask me, the federal government probably overstepped its bounds and reached its dirty hands into the free and fair market when they abolished slavery.”
People began to shift in their seats. A feeling of shared discomfort was later described by many journalists in attendance. Then, Carson doubled-down again.
“It’s true, everyone,” Carson insisted, again wiping his eyes and yawning, “it’s true. Slaves by our standards today would just be, you know, dark-skinned, unpaid interns and nothing more nefarious than that.”
Audible gasps were heard in the room.
“Slow down here people, slow down,” Carson said as protests seemed to increase in volume, “let me explain. See, to me, slaves were really getting a pretty good deal. Free room and board. Think about it. How much more money would you have if you didn’t have to worry about your rent or your mortgage? How much more spending cash would you have if your meals were all comped?”
Carson took questions from reporters, and the very first one was from The Detroit Register. The reporter asked if Carson understood that slaves weren’t paid anything, and so no rent and free food wasn’t exactly a fair trade. Dr. Carson shrugged.
“That’s your perspective,” Carson said, “but to me? I just see those plantation owners as alternative job creators. I hear you guys carping about slaves not making money, but again, you don’t have to make money when all your needs are met. If the price of free room, board, and food is a beating, or having your children forcibly removed from you so that they can be sold like human cattle too, then isn’t that a price we should all be willing to pay? Otherwise the alternative is things like minimum wage and affirmative action, and I ask you, honestly now, which is worse — literally dehumanizing someone to the point that they’re physical property like a chair or a bottle of mustard, or social programs that might tax the rich a little more and might impact economic growth by, like, negative .2% or something?”
The room, for the fifth time that day, fell completely and utterly silent. Carson dropped the mic, but not because he wanted to, because he had just fallen asleep. The reporters all filed out quietly, so as not to disturb the slumbering former brain surgeon.