Comment Of The Day: “Double Standards, Hypocrisy, News Media Bias, “Bias Makes You Stupid” And Cognitive Dissonance—This One Has Them All! Thanks, Ben Carson!”

Literally everyone I told about Ben Carson equating slaves with immigrants made a face like they had bitten on a lemon. The comparison is distasteful at a visceral level, because what we think of as immigration does not include being captured and shipped in chains to a strange land for sale, raping and breeding. Once it was pointed out that Barack Obama, rather than only Trump’s notoriously clueless HUD Secretary ( He believes, for example, that Egypt’s pyramids were built to store grain, not dead pharaohs), also championed this false equivalency, many rushed to defend it. The default argument was  that old standby of the desperate, the dictionary, asserting that the most common definition of  immigrant,  “a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country,” applies to those who arrived in slave ships too. It is an intellectually dishonest position. Wikipedia accurately describes what immigrant means in common parlance–and it isn’t slavery:

Immigration is the international movement of people into a destination country of which they are not natives or where they do not possess citizenship in order to settle or reside there, especially as permanent residents or naturalized citizens, or to take-up employment as a migrant worker or temporarily as a foreign worker

In discussing “push and pull factors,” the article notes:

Push factors refer primarily to the motive for immigration from the country of origin. In the case of economic migration (usually labor migration), differentials in wage rates are common. If the value of wages in the new country surpasses the value of wages in one’s native country, he or she may choose to migrate, as long as the costs are not too high. Particularly in the 19th century, economic expansion of the US increased immigrant flow, and nearly 15% of the population was foreign-born, thus making up a significant amount of the labor force.

How odd, then, that the Africans slaves were pushed to “migrate” to a land where they received no wages at all! Of course, the “costs” were paid for by others, so that was one incentive, I guess…

Non-economic push factors include persecution (religious and otherwise), frequent abuse, bullying, oppression, ethnic cleansing, genocide, risks to civilians during war, and social marginalization..

Wow, those African “immigrants” were strange. They immigrated to get more persecution, terrible abuse, and ultimate social marginalization!

I confess I find the defense of this intentional blurring of material distinctions for cynical demagoguery as annoying as the demagoguery itself.

Fortunately, texagg04 managed to be more restrained, and approaches the issue from a different and interesting perspective. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Double Standards, Hypocrisy, News Media Bias, “Bias Makes You Stupid” And Cognitive Dissonance—This One Has Them All! Thanks, Ben Carson!”:

The problem with calling African American slaves an immigrant population, even if by some clinical comparison the definition of “immigrant” can match the bare essentials of moving the slaves from Africa to America, what it fails to include is that the slaves and their immediate descendants and arguably several generations of descendants after that never went through an immigrant “experience”.

They never “wanted to come,” and in forced isolation from the greater community they never went through the initial shock of assimilation, and they never began to venture out into the greater community, not for GENERATIONS.

There is no doubt that by the early 1900s, these descendants of slaves  were well on their way to beginning a true equivalence of an “immigration experience,” as generations that had never experienced slavery could look around America and say “I want to be here and I want to fit in the greater society.” And you see that, as you see the initial stages of the assimilation shock, with new generations being less ingrained with the “old culture” and with more in common with the “majority culture”.

But of course we know the story.  There was a greater hostility towards these “immigrants” than towards those with the more traditional  immigrant experiences (though there is always friction towards any immigrant group). We also know that well into the process in the mid-1900s, the assimilation was actually going relatively well, if  a bit slower simply due to the already atypical starting conditions of the large population of  belatedly free African-Americans. The mid-1900s process was  undermined in part by pus back from some elements in the larger community, and also in large part by forces that didn’t necessarily want them fully integrated, seeing political profit in keeping them divided from the larger community.

I wonder: Can the “immigrant experience” can ever be rejuvenated?

18 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Race, U.S. Society

18 responses to “Comment Of The Day: “Double Standards, Hypocrisy, News Media Bias, “Bias Makes You Stupid” And Cognitive Dissonance—This One Has Them All! Thanks, Ben Carson!”

  1. Chris Marschner

    Good read. One minor point that has yet to surface: Carson is Secretary of Housing and Urban Development not Commerce

  2. The saddest thing is that people can change their position on this topic based on who said it even when they were initially repulsed. And not even see the hypocrisy and lack of basic humanity.

    Says a lot about how far our society has polarized in past few years.

    • Rusty Rebar

      I think it is important to point this out when we see it. I have seen a few examples of this in the last few days:

      First, this instance:

      “That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity,” Carson 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.”

      That is Ben Carson, and that drew so much outrage

      “It wasn’t always easy for new immigrants.  Certainly it wasn’t easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily, and yet in their own way were immigrants themselves”

      And that is Obama

      Next:

      “Americans have choices, and they’ve got to make a choice. So rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.

      That is Chaffetz, and again, he drew a lot of criticism for this remark.

      “if you looked at their cable bill, their telephone, their cell phone bill… it may turn out that, it’s just they haven’t prioritized health care.” He added that if a family member gets sick, the father “will wish he had paid that $300 a month.”

      But that one was from Obama… These two statements are literally making the same point. I don’t recall too much outrage over the Obama statement though.

    • Chris

      I’ve only noticed one liberal commentator (though of course there could be others) point out that Obama said the same thing and still end up condemning it: Trevor Noah, on The Daily Show.

      He still focused the majority of his ire on Carson, but he ended up saying that no matter who said it, it’s still wrong.

  3. It’s like when Dinesh D’Souza makes the argument that the black community benefited from slavery because their descendants are better off than they would have been without it. The point is arguably factually, technically true… But god damn I’d have to scrub my mouth out if those words ever passed though it.

  4. Wayne

    Nice analysis Tex. Although I still think It was quite unfair and hypocritical for all the lefties to pile on Carson for the stupid remark he made, still it is awful to describe slaves as immigrants. Btw, Arab slave traders were responsible for developing this cruel and despicable process although they found willing buyers for their merchandise amongst the Spanish, French, English, and lastly the Americans sea captains and in the New World.

    • You know I made that argument a lot in an effort to shift blame for slavery. And yes Muslims engaged in slavery horrendously also. But after listening to Kmele Foster’s interviews with 2 Left wingers in the topic I was moved by Kmele’s refocus on the problem that we ought not view slavery and treating any one group poorly as a competition between which group was most mistreated and which group was most mistreating. I hope I transcribed Kmele’s quote accurately when he said (he’s a libertarian just you know where his worldview comes from).

      “My contention is that in addition to us being interested in the broader sweep of human history and the general fact more so than the specific detail of human suffering, because I don’t want to get into a pissing match between communities of people who have been harmed in order to prove who got the worst end of the stick. I think it’s more important that we recognize the fleeting nature of human freedom and the extent to which people can mistreat one another once they have convinced themselves to believe that the other people aren’t deserving of the kind of freedom that they enjoy.”

      • Share blame. Not shift. Share.

        And thanks!

        • Wayne

          You’re welcomed. I don’t agree with Foster on one point however: I think it is important to keep in mind the scope of atrocities and maltreatment which has occurred historically. For example, the Nazis were responsible for the murder of about 10 million Jews, Gypsys, and Slavs in their death camps. Stalin and the Communists were directly responsible for about 30 million Ukrainians and other minority groups deaths through famine and in the gulag. I understand about 100 million Chinese perished under Mao’s regime.

  5. Margie

    “that old standby of the desperate, the dictionary”

    A bit snarky. In fact, you’re often quite snarky these days. A lot more than you used to be. I’m not sure why, but that makes me sad. I, along with every teacher I ever had, always had a lot of respect for dictionaries. Never before in my entire life have I heard them referred to in such a disparaging way as a “standby of the desperate.” I’ve known them to many times update definitions when the meanings morph through common usage. This one hasn’t morphed.

    I saw nothing in the definition of “come” that implies a voluntary act. It means to move from there to here. That’s all. Just as “go” means move from here to there. When Mother said, “Come here right now!!!” I always did, but it wasn’t voluntary. (And, no, I’m not analogizing that to being sold into slavery.)

    “It is an intellectually dishonest position”

    No, it isn’t.

    “the most common definition of immigrant”

    It’s virtually the ONLY definition of immigrant.

    It is my (surely desperate and intellectually dishonest) opinion that Wikipedia is no greater an authority than Merriam-Webster, Oxford, or Cambridge. In fact, I consider it a much lesser one.

    If you do a Google search for “slave immigration” and “slave immigrant,” you will turn up many thousands of results. It’s more of a “common parlance” than even I suspected.

    I didn’t have a problem with either of them saying it. My reaction wasn’t formed, and didn’t change, according to the speaker. THAT would be intellectually dishonest.

    It could be that such an application of the word “immigrant” is beginning the journey into being one of those word usages that is changing into something socially unacceptable like “handicapped,” “crippled,” or “retarded,” but it isn’t there yet. (By the way, you should know that the word “Gypsy” is unacceptable. I’m sure you didn’t know that when you used it because you’re such a nice guy. I’d like for you to still be one anyway. I would never assume that you used it to be intentionally hurtful, or because you were an idiot for not knowing.)

    If you do a Google search for …

    Ethicsalarms.com: idiot “Ben Carson”

    There are about 1,230 results. I’d wager that, in the majority of those results, he was called an idiot by you. You firmly believe he’s an idiot (or at best an “idiot savant”…a little credit there for being a neurosurgeon I suppose). Until it was determined that Obama had also used the same term several times, there was widespread national outrage and flaming hair at Carson’s remarks. Your hair seems to still be on fire. It looks a lot like confirmation bias to me. You know him to be an idiot, so what he said served to confirm it for you (and countless others). If you can ascribe motives to people that you can’t possibly have any way of knowing, then so can I. I’m calling your flaming hair confirmation bias.

    So long, Jack. Stay well.

    • 1.Bye. When you do that, you don’t get to come back without an application. Just a reminder.
      2. You’re wrong. “Come” most certainly describes action taken by the him or her who comes; “taken” or “forced” is not what “comes” means.
      3. Resorting to a dictionary definition is oldest, laziest debate tactic on earth, A best it is starting point; when used as the sole argument, it is not just desperate but misleading.
      4. I am far from the only one who has called Carson an idiot. If he were not black, the number would be about 10,000 times more. If he were not a conservative, another 50,000 or so. Anyone who is so deluded to run for President without any—any—relevant experience is a fool. Anyone who makes the argument that Carson did repeatedly—that those without skills or experience in politics were BETTER qualified to be President than those who do—is an ignoramus, by definition. Carson’s public utterances are among the most moronic in American history. Finally, the man accepted an appointment for which he is completely unqualified. Also so irresponsible as to suggest permanent disability. No confirmation bias here. There is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. No, I didn’t need the dumb slaves remark to confirm anything, and the comparison of slaves to immigrant would raise my non-metaphorical eye-brows if it was said by a non-idiot, like, say, Obama. It’s an idiotic thing to say.

      5. I’m not snarky, except for effect on occasion. This is a blog, and after reading many of them—too many—I decided that readers deserve better than the often homogenized detached commentary they get on a lot of blogs where the writers are fearful of revealing what they really think and feel. Yes, increasingly when a story or quote deserves harsher judgments and descriptions, I’m more candid than I used to be. Candor is ethical. The fiasco of Ben Carson is one of the people who convinced me it was the right thing to do.

      6. Finally, Wikipedia has a lot of flaws, but in this case its description of how the word immigrant is used and in what context is far more useful and dispositive than the dictionary definition. Go ahead, tell me that you always thought of the slave trade as a form of immigration, and slaves as immigrants. I’ve looked: nobody described slaves that way in any history of any note, perhaps because it would laughable and offensive at the same time, before Obama made it part of his pandering act.

  6. Margie

    Metaphorical hair, that is.

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