U.S. President Donald Trump's pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson used the word "immigrants" to describe African slaves, drawing criticism on social media, including from civil rights groups and Black celebrities Monday.
"That's what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity, there were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less," Carson said in welcoming remarks to his staff in Washington, D.C.
“OK!! Ben Carson ... I can't! Immigrants? In the bottom of SLAVE SHIPS??!! MUTHAFUKKA PLEASE!!! #dickheadedtom,” Black actor Samuel L. Jackson tweeted slamming Carson, the only African-American in Trump's Cabinet.
“Ben Carson” was a top worldwide trend on Twitter as of Monday evening as people reacted to his comments. The NAACP tweeted, "Immigrants???"
Enslaved Africans did not, in fact, voluntarily come to the United States and were denied freedom for many centuries. "This is as offensive a remark as it gets," Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, told Reuters.
"No Ben," Black journalist and activist Shaun King tweeted. “Africans who were forced into slavery were not immigrants. They exist in an altogether different category.”
Slavery involved over 12 million Africans forcibly brought in chains to the U.S. from the 16th to 19th centuries, to work for free in barbaric conditions, ultimately helping to make the U.S. a rich imperialist power.
Many Black and civil rights groups have regularly called for reparations for African-Americans due to the brutal legacy of slavery and the continued violence of racism in the U.S.
Black people around the country continue to suffer systemic racism in education, employment, justice and every other aspect of life in the U.S.
In recent years a series of high-profile cases of police brutality and killings against Black people have ignited national resistance against inequality and social injustice that people of color in the U.S. face.