Congratulations, Ben Carson – you’ve become the latest target of the internet’s outrage. Carson, 65, was recently appointed the new US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and on Monday evening he gave a speech in front of the HUD Staff. It was an address based on the idea of what was, and could be, possible for the human race. America was, after all, a land of opportunity. Everything seemed to be going well… until he referred to slaves as immigrants.
It only took a few responses online for the vitriol to catch on like wildfire. The source of the outrage is clear: Carson’s failure to distinguish between people forced into slavery, and those who travelled to America of their own accord. In other words, the voluntary nature of opportunity seekers, versus the involuntary circumstances of those slaves chained at the wrists and feet.
Quite soon, Twitter was ablaze with Carson’s name. He was trending – and not in the good way.
The Anger Of Online
The methods of people’s responses were many and varied. Some started off by simply expressing disbelief that Ben Carson couldn’t distinguish between the two. It made little matter that Carson himself is African-American; the perceived ignorance was a little too much to get a pass for.
Ben Carson: slaves were immigrants who came here & worked for less
By "came" you mean FORCED
By "less" you mean NOTHING
— The Hummingbird (@Alifaith55) March 6, 2017
Carson’s whole reputation was dumped on, with some mocking his background as a brain surgeon as well. Up until that turning point in his speech, he had actually been talking about the enormous capacity of the human brain. Until his own brain got a bull’s eye.
How does Ben Carson operate on other people's brains when he doesn't have one of his own? ?
— Chia ✨ (@BrwnEyedSuicide) March 7, 2017
Of course, the potential analogies for the things that Carson implied became a topic of conversation too. Some likened his commentary to calling Jewish Holocaust victims “guests” at Hitler’s concentration camps.
If slave ships dropped off immigrants, then firecrackers were dropped on Hiroshima.
*Ben Carson Logic*
— Nikhil Sapre (@FineLogic) March 6, 2017
Though the firestorm hasn’t quite left Ben Carson alone yet, he has managed to speak up in his own defense. Following the speech – and the tons of netizens he clearly pissed off – Carson tried explain his side, as shared by The New York Times.
He argued the technical definition of the word “immigrant” as “a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.” In that case, the specification of “voluntary” versus “involuntary” doesn’t come into play. He also argued that “slaves didn’t just give up and die, our ancestor made something of themselves”.
It wasn’t the prettiest start to his appointment. But Ben Carson learned something important today: in the age of social media, you have to be careful of what you say. Because people aren’t going to let you forget about it.