The comparison came as the Urban Development Secretary of the United States of America gave his first official address in post. Carson, in speaking about the controversial American immigration issue, attempted to compare the hardships of the Trans-Atlantic American chattel slaves to the hardships of modern day immigrants.
"That's what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less," said Carson. "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."
Social media took Carson to task for his comparison, calling it insensitive and irrelevant.
"[Carson's comments were just a]heartfelt introduction to the HUD family," said a U.S. Department of Housing of Urban Development staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He was making a point about people who came to this country for a better life for their kids. Nobody in that room put two and two together and came to five. Only the most cynical interpretation would conflate voluntary immigration to this country with involuntary servitude."
An African-American staffer pointed out that many people did not understand what Carson said until they read it later.
"That was lost on most people in the room. He was making the point that people didn't just come through Ellis Island," the staffer said. "If anything, I thought someone may have taken issue with the fact that he was pointing out it was rougher for black people."