When I first began learning about our country’s three branches of government, my teachers explained that those who rise to the upper echelons of public service, including the president and his administration, bring intellect, wisdom, patriotism and common sense to their offices.
But that had to be more accurate back in the “good old days.” As for today, one thing is crystal-clear — a few of the folks who have membership cards with “Team Trump” are sorely in need of a yearlong, crash course in American history — not to mention Black History 101.
I guess I can almost overlook U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos celebrating HBCUs as “pioneers” of “school choice” during a recent meeting with some of the college presidents while conveniently omitting the part about why those schools were formed — to provide an alternative for Blacks who, because of state laws that enforced segregation, were denied admittance to white institutes of learning.
But when Dr. Ben Carson during his first official address Monday as secretary of Housing and Urban Development compared slaves, victims of America’s “peculiar, invisible institution” where they were subjected to all kinds of heinous and unimaginable inhumane treatment,” to immigrants exercising their options and seeking a better way of life, I was floored — momentarily unable to breathe or speak.
I was amazed, angry and a bit ashamed. How could another black man say something like that and keep a straight face? But he went on, saying that what connected slaves to immigrants was their having the same hopes and dreams that their offspring “might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”
After realizing how ridiculous he sounded, how he had done what seems to keep occurring within the current team — that is, throwing out another “alternate fact,” believing the crowd would go along for the ride, then almost immediately finding himself in very hot water, he should have backpedaled. At the least he should have shut his mouth.
Checking the “facts” as presented by Carson is easy. Just look in a dictionary for the words “immigrant” and “slave” or crack open any credible history book. An immigrant is a person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence. Slaves brought to America were kidnapped — forced against their will to travel to a place they did not choose where they lived entirely under the domination of another person — that’s the master, specifically, Dr. Carson, or whites in general.
Carson attempted to clean up the mess he’d created by going to his personal Facebook page the next evening. But by then the entire world, thanks to social media, had already heard about the doctor’s absurd comments.
It all goes to show that more often than not in America, what gets you to the top, in the club and through the door rests not on your intellectual profundity but whether you’re friends with the doorman.