Ben Carson, the new Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), on Monday referred to slaves brought to the United States as "immigrants," drawing instant criticism from civil rights groups, who cast his remarks as offensive.
In his address to the HUD staff, Carson – who himself is an African-American – 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.
History is witness to the fact that Africans were brought to America against their will to work as slaves under the White Americans.
"This is as offensive a remark as it gets," said Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.
His remarks sparked outrage on Twitter, including from the actor Samuel L Jackson.
"I apologize for referring to slaves as 'immigrants.' I meant to say 'interns.'" -- Ben Carson, tomorrow— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) March 7, 2017
Enslaved people were not immigrants and they did not "work for less." They were kidnapped, maimed, raped, and worked to death.— Vann R. Newkirk II (@fivefifths) March 6, 2017
Ben Carson said slaves were immigrants who came over here & worked for less. By "came" you mean FORCED and by "less" you mean NOTHING— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) March 6, 2017
Earlier, Carson had said during his campaign for the US Elections, that he did not believe a Muslim should be president. After dropping out of the presidential race, he supported Donald Trump.
(With inputs from NBC News and Reuters)