Slaves didn't see America as a land of dreams and opportunity

March 9, 2017 - 8:30am

KAMLOOPS — Comments made by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson this week deserve a response. Dr. Carson was talking about the work ethic of immigrants who came to the New World seeking a new opportunity, coming to Ellis Island, seeing the Statue of Liberty, with the hope of fulfilling their dreams of a new life, a new beginning in a new land. Unfortunately for Dr. Carson, he attempted, in the same breath, to talk about slaves who came in the bottom of slave ships with a dream that their families might pursue prosperity and happiness.

And that’s where his comments literally fell apart. To even mention that slaves torn apart from their families in Africa, abused by their captors, killed if they objected, and subjected to inhumane conditions and a lifestyle we can’t even imagine, is somehow comparable to the journey across the waters from Europe, is an absolute disgrace. The only thing that saves it from being worse is that Dr. Carson is, himself, a man of colour. If he were not, there would likely be riots in the streets to protest those comments.

It is hard to believe that Dr. Carson meant to imply that being an Irish or Italian immigrant coming to America was the same as being admitted at the hands of slave traders and sold at auction, to live a life with no freedom, subjected to rape and abuse, and death often for no reason. But the comments were made. And as such, Dr. Carson has to live with them. He tried, people from his department tried, to smooth things over and clarify, but sadly, once the comments are made, there’s no taking them back. It’s like posts on the social media. Once they’re out there, you never get them back.

As CNN contributor Keith Boykin stated “Dr. Carson is also the guy who once compared Obamacare to slavery. I’m starting to think he may not understand the word ‘slavery’. The only dream that most slaves had when they were dumped on America’s shores was to survive another day, and perhaps one day be reunited with their families. Noted American author Colson Whitehead, in his book The Underground Railroad, describes in depth the conditions most slaves went through. To compare them in any way, shape or form to my ancestors who came over from Europe is ignorant at best. Even the prisoners sent to Australia for their crimes at least had the hope of being free someday and living a life of relative prosperity. Even the so-called “free” slaves were caught up in the turmoil of capture and were nowhere near as free as the word made it seem. From the time the Dutch introduced the first captured Africans to America in 1619 (History Television: Origins of Slavery in America) till the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, people of colour have been fighting for a decent standard of living, often pushed under by those same immigrants from other countries that Dr. Carson talks about.

One thing I will agree with in Dr. Carson’s comments, immigrants coming to the New World, be it the U.S. or Canada, tend to work hard, take on jobs others would not, in order to reach for that dream they brought with them. But the hard work of many of those immigrants, and it was hard, pales in comparison with the work forced upon slaves whose only sin was being black instead of white. Dr. Carson’s comments are, sadly, just more fodder to pummel an administration that, in a very short time has stooped to new lows for ignorance, stupidity and incompetence.

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