The internet erupted in phony outrage today after Ben Carson was quoted as apparently calling slaves brought to America in the colonial days “immigrants”. The anger manifested itself not in deeming Carson a racist (because he’s black, and black people can’t be racist) but in labeling him a complete moron.
The question hasn’t been asked if Carson was correct in referring to slaves as immigrants. Marriam-Webster defines an immigrant as “a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence”. Strictly speaking, slaves did come to America to take up permanent residence. Even if they came here against their will, they were technically immigrants.
The rage this has caused could all be washed away if instead of picking apart Carson’s words, they actually listened to what he said. His speech was about people coming to America and working hard, not for themselves, but because they hoped their children would have a better life. Men and women sacrificed because they loved their children and grandchildren. The idea of working hard and hoping that your children would live a better life than you isn’t something that was unique to European immigrants; slaves had those dreams as well.
The issue of slavery being brought up yet again does encourage one to learn a bit about slave history in America. Here are a few interesting facts about slavery that you probably didn’t know. (See Jim Goad)
- There were more white slaves brought to America during the 1600s than black slaves.
- At the height of slavery, only 6% of southerners owned slaves. When northerners are included, that’s less than 2%.
- Most African slaves were sold to slave traders by other Africans.
- Nearly 90% of slaves that traveled the middle passage ended up in Central and South America – not the American colonies.
- 28% of freed blacks owned slaves in America. (Quite a bit higher than the white slave ownership rate.)
Don’t worry about those silly little facts that history teachers conveniently leave out of their lessons. Just go on thinking Ben Carson is an idiot for using the word “immigrant” to describe slaves.