Ben Carson Clarifies … Kinda

Ben Carson took a lot of flak for a comment he made about slavery and immigration on Monday. In turn, when I highlighted his comment, some readers of this blog, reflecting their own assumptions, went off on what I conclude was a Rorschach test of reading and reacting to blog posts.

Even Ben Carson understood he had to clarify what he meant. On his Facebook page, he did so:

Carson FB slavery

If only he had stopped there … because, afterwards, in chatting with Armstrong Williams, a conservative commentator, Carson observed: “Slaves came here as involuntary immigrants.” That drew renewed criticism in some corners.

I’m inclined to give Carson the benefit of the doubt here, because the modifier represents an important advance. The same could be said of the formulation Barack Obama used, because, contrary to some careless readers (I’m being kind here), he did not simply declare that slaves were immigrants.

In short, Dr. Carson now admits he could have spoken better, and he’s offered observations that ought to be heeded by his defenders here and elsewhere. Let’s see whether they are as big as he is, or whether they wish to go the way of, say, someone who resides in Virginia Whine Country, where heritage correctness and right-wing opinions always trump historical accuracy and objectivity in what amounts to a mindless clipping service of the blogger’s referred political reading pretending to be a blog about history.

11 thoughts on “Ben Carson Clarifies … Kinda

  1. OhioGuy March 11, 2017 / 6:37 pm

    Thanks for posting this clarification. I think it certainly is consistent with other things that Dr. Carson has said on the subject of slavery in some of his earlier writings. As I have admitted before, he is not the best extemporaneous speaker. He needs to rely on notes better rather than just winging it all the time. I also think the term “involuntary immigrants” is accurate. I’m glad you are going to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’ve done that from the beginning, but I have a little history with him that others on this board don’t, so I really think I have a good sense of the man. He has a very good heart, and I think you’ll see some innovative ideas come out of his tenure at HUD that will advance the ball in a positive direction. He’ll think out of the box, which will be a good thing since HUD has been stagnant way too long, IMHO.

    • John Foskett March 12, 2017 / 9:57 am

      You sound as though he were trying to explain John Locke’s response to Cartesian philosophy. How hard is this? “Involuntary immigrants” is similar to the type of verbal chicanery which the DOD uses to refer to a screw in defense contracts. Why are we trying so hard to defend a facially absurd statement. The slaves weren’t immigrants. They were slaves/human property stashed as cargo in abhorrent conditions and them sold upon arrival. If Carson needed to go through a process of figuring out that his analogy was ridiculous, I wouldn’t expect too much brilliant “thinking outside the box”.

  2. Kristoffer March 12, 2017 / 7:23 am

    “…their incomprehensible struggle from slavery to freedom.”
    If it walks like a Freudian slip and quacks like a Freudian slip…

  3. TFSmith March 12, 2017 / 8:20 am

    That is very charitable of you, professor.

    Carson is a graduate of Yale and Michigan, did his residency at Johns Hopkins, has been on the national stage since 2008 (MoF) and giving speeches in pursuit of his political goals since (at least) 2013, including running for a major political party’s presidential nomination… And now he is a Cabinet secretary with very real authority and responsibility.

    He is hardly a tyro at all this.., and no more “misspoke” on this subject than anyone in a position of power ever does.

    As has been said, when someone tells you what they are, why disbelieve them?

    Carson is no more Chauncey Gardener than Donald Trump is; they both know exactly what they are doing, and to what purposes.


    • John Foskett March 12, 2017 / 9:59 am

      I want some of that Pyramid wheat for baking purposes. Hey, we all have “personal beliefs”. Ben has his, Trump has his – they’re called alternative facts.

    • OhioGuy March 13, 2017 / 7:21 pm

      Thanks, TF. I agree with what you are saying here. When I see some of these same types of comments directed at folks like Elijah Cummings, Maxine Waters, and Alcee Hastings — who regularly butcher the English language and cite alternate facts — I’ll take this type of criticism of Carson seriously. I’m not talking here about Brooks’ original blog on the subject but some of the subsequent comments that his blog engendered. [This does not mean that I think Carson knows much about ancient Egyptian history, but as HUD secretary that’s not going to be a deficit that will cause much of a problem in the performance of his duties.]

      For the record, what would you make of this quote from the always articulate Cummings about Benghazi to a person testifying at a congressional hearing: “And, as I listen to your testimony I could not help but think of something that I said very recently, two years ago now, in a eulogy for a relative. I said that death is a part of life, so often we have to find a way to make life a part of death.” I’m not trying to make fun to Cummings, who was a patriot during the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, but just pointing out that some people’s stupid statements get more attention than others.

      • Msb March 15, 2017 / 5:01 am

        “Regularly cite alternative facts”
        Citation(s) needed.

        • TFSmith March 16, 2017 / 4:34 am

          Given our Rebel correspondent’s preferences, you’ll have a long wait..


      • John Foskett March 15, 2017 / 7:50 am

        Not everybody, Buckaroo. For example you will be able through some archives research to find comments here by others (expressly including me) which are critical of other public figures diving into bad historical analogies – such as the 44th President. You seem overly defensive about Carson’s embarrassing forays into this realm.

  4. TFSmith March 13, 2017 / 10:15 pm

    Don’t thank me, Reb. The comment was not addressed to you, and given your obvious wish to excuse the reality of Mr. Carson’s character, there’s no point.

  5. Msb March 15, 2017 / 5:10 am

    I’m glad to see text from Carson that makes sense. I think both he and Obama, a much more skilled public speaker, made a useful point when describing slaves as involuntary immigrants. Like other immigrants, such as Irish people, they were despised and considered subhuman. Perhaps because they had been considered property or less than fully human, the “involuntary immigrants” were rarely considered Americans, as the popularity of the idea of colonization as a solution to slavery indicates. It’s interesting, for example, how people talk about the views of the South or Southerners, without including those of slaves or their descendants.

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