It’s not surprising that Donald Trump is once again in the news for being a racist. What IS surprising, at least to me, is how often the news media — and the public — seems to be missing the point.
When Trump used the phrase “shithole countries” to describe (apparently) Haiti, El Salvador, and several African nations, he was rightly called out by decent people everywhere. But he was called out for using the term “shithole” in reference to these countries, instead for the worst thing he actually said.
What Trump actually said:
He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway.
To me, it’s a matter of personal choice whether one uses the term “shithole” or “third world”. And it’s up for debate which of these countries can be classified as “third world” or “shithole” places.
The part we should be condemning him for is saying we don’t want those people; we want white people from good countries. Because they weren’t discussing illegal immigration; they were discussing the visa “lottery” system, whereby a certain amount of legal immigration is allowed. He said of Haitians: “Take them out” — meaning he wanted them removed from the lottery system.
Yes, simply using the term “shithole” could be construed as racist. And yes, competent non-racist presidents would avoid using the term. But it’s not a great stretch to argue that some of these places actually are shitholes. And that is the exact reason why we should be taking their people when we can.
Because the Statue of Liberty didn’t say “give me your tired — unless they’re from shithole countries” … “give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free — unless they’re from shithole countries.” The Declaration of Independence didn’t say “all men are created equal — except those in shithole countries, which were created lesser than us”.
Some related notes:
1. Haiti (especially Haiti, but arguably the other countries too) is in the state its in due in large part to the actions of the United States over the course of two full centuries. “But the earthquake” or “But the hurricane” are simply excuses. From its very inception, Haiti was the victim of racist U.S. policies. When the black slaves succeeded in fighting for independence in 1804, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson — a slaveholder himself — refused to establish diplomatic relations with Haiti. (The U.S. didn’t recognize Haiti until 1862.) Jefferson immediately embargoed all trade with Haiti — a devastating policy that lasted nearly 60 years. In the 1820s, the French demanded payment of 150 million francs (later reduced to 90 million) — and Haiti agreed, in order to avoid another war. That debt lasted until the 1940s. Haiti further was in debt to the U.S. and Germany. The U.S. militarily occupied for 20 years in the early 1900s, declaring martial law and censoring the local press. Read up on it, if you’re not familiar.
2. Why would people from “places such as Norway” want to come to the U.S.? Surely, a few of them do; I’ve met a couple. But to many citizens of Norway and other well-to-do countries, the U.S. probably looks like a shithole — if they read the news very often. In most measures of the “success” of nations, the Nordic countries rank near the top. The U.S. increasingly hangs around the middle of the rankings, though we are still striving to get to the bottom.
3. This whole debacle reminded me of the video where Trump said “grab them by the pussy” and almost everyone began discussing the word, the use of profanity, the degrading terminology toward women, etc. At the time, it should have been clear that the worst part of what he said was that HE DOES THIS without asking, and gets away with it because he’s rich.