Newly confirmed Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson managed to cause controversy in his very first speech to HUD employees by describing slaves as "immigrants." His remarks on slavery came after he discussed photos of impoverished immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, the New York Times reports. "That's what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity," Carson said. "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."
Carson's speech got a standing ovation from HUD employees, but his remarks were swiftly condemned online, reports Reuters. The NAACP tweeted simply: "Immigrants???" and Whoopi Goldberg tweeted that Carson should watch Roots. The Anne Frank Center called the remarks "as offensive as it gets," while Samuel L. Jackon tweeted: "OK!! Ben Carson....I can't! Immigrants? In the bottom of SLAVE SHIPS??!! MUTHAF---A PLEASE!!!" In a statement, HUD said nobody in the room believed Carson "equates voluntary immigration with involuntary servitude," USA Today reports. In a series of tweets, Carson said you can be an "involuntary immigrant," adding: "Slaves didn't just give up and die, our ancestors made something of themselves."