Trump’s “shithole” comments about Africa, Haiti and El Salvador reveal the deep-rooted racism at the heart of Trumpism

Every time Donald Trump makes a comment about a non-white country, or a non-white person, it becomes increasingly obvious that his America-First agenda is a zero-sum game whose aim is to elevate all things white while denigrating anything and anybody else.
In Trump’s world, everything related to whiteness and white people (neo-Nazis included) is right and good, while all things non-white – whether that’s kneeling NFL players, black sports broadcasters, immigrant children, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Muslims and  so on – are bad, unworthy, inferior, and deserving of his scorn. Trump’s brand of racism is of the profoundly unsophisticated kind; non-white people can be put into clear categories: sons of bitches, ‘lazy’ and ‘ungrateful’, ‘rapists’, ‘the worst’.
Unfortunately, it’s now El Salvador, Haiti and Africa’s turn to be the target of Trump’s poisonous prejudices. On Thursday it was revealed that, in a meeting to discuss a bi-partisan immigration deal with lawmakers, Trump had asked “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” (He then expressed a desire to see people from Norway come to the US, the implication being that Norweigans are inherently better people than the people of color who – by virtue of residing in those other apparently undesirable places – are, therefore, undeserving of support or protection.)
Although I find Trump’s choice of words offensive, I can’t say that I’m particularly shocked by them. This is a man who speaks in sweeping stereotypes, whose prejudice is worn on his sleeve as a badge of honor, who gets off on offending people at home and abroad and who continuously panders to the lowest instincts of his ‘base’. These comments are simply more of the same small-mindedness and ignorance that we have become used to hearing from him. It’s also, by the way, not the first time he spoken so disparagingly: a few weeks ago, he was reported to have said that Nigerians would “never go back to their huts” once they had visited the US and that Haitians “all have AIDS”. Yes, those really are the words of the president of America, speaking in the 21st century.
What is deeply troubling (beyond the fact that the slur isn’t actually true), however, is the extent to which Trump not only essentializes and other-izes whole groups of people, but the way in which he continues to use his racist ideas and ideologies to guide his positions on policy. The chaotic Travel Ban, thankfully taken to pieces by the justice system, has already shown us the influence of Trump’s xenophobia on his decision-making. However, despite failing to bring the travel ban into effect in the way he had wanted, Trump still tries to do more of the same.
We have to ask why Trump really wants to disrupt the lives of Haitiain men, women and children living under Temporary Protected Status since the devastating earthquake in 2010 which, to add insult to injury, occurred on January 12th exactly 8 years ago tomorrow? What will he, and his supporters, really gain from attempting to send 200,000 El Salvadorean immigrants back to a country which they may not have been back to for 15 years? Why attack Africa and Africans? Politically and practically, these moves make no sense: Haiti is a neighbour to the US, and has been an ally for many, many years. America needs Africa, with its growing middle class and huge youth demographics. And, it does the US no favours to cause instability in El Salvador. It makes no real sense to create diplomatic tensions or political rifts with any of these nations, nor to hurt them in ways which might lead to political and economic failure which might then, in turn, come back to affect the US in adverse ways.
But Donald Trump is racist and this is, from my point of view, all about the continued culture – dare I say, race – war which Trump is trying to wage in America. He desperately wants to stoke tensions, to open up divisions, to increase xenophobia and racism using the divide-and-conquer strategy that has been his game plan from the beginning.
Trump believes that places like Haiti, El Salvador and Africa – that is, places full of non-white people – are no good. And, he wants his followers to believe (if they don’t already) the same thing. Judging by what he has said and done so far during his time in office, he wants us all to believe that non-white people are, on the whole, no good. He seeks to associate the word immigration with bad non-white people, even though a large proportion of immigrants to America are – and have been – white. Trump himself, comes from an immigrant family. But that, is the essence of Trumpism, also known as Making America Great Again and putting America First.
It is likely that we will continue to see Trump’s xenophobically-driven policies get struck down by the legislative arm. However, and unfortunately for those of us in our right non-racist minds, we will hear more of his crude rhetoric (whether said in private or in public), because it suits his white nationalist agenda.
Sadly, this president is so inept and incompetent that his only path to maintaining power and control is taking the position that places which he has deemed ‘shitholes’ (and I suppose this would mean that people from those places are, by extension, shitty) are undeserving of American support, no matter their role or position in helping America and no matter what problems such an attitude may cause.
This is further reason why this president’s nefarious agenda must be resisted. There should be no room for this kind of thinking and attitude in America; to see this kind of racism at work in 2018, is a deep, deep shame.

 

King’s dream meets Obama’s reality

One year in office for a black president was never going to be long enough to cool America’s heated battles over race
Martin Luther King
 Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial in 1968. Barack Obama used the day before his inauguration to honour King. Photograph: Francis Miller/Getty

The past year has provided the world with the opportunity to see whether or not the potent symbolism of Barack Obama’s inauguration has translated into reality. This is particularly so today, a federal holiday in the US to mark the birthday of Martin Luther King, on the subject of race relations – a topic so fundamental to America’s history and one unmistakably tied to its present day social, economic and political reality.

According to a recent Pew poll, America’s race relations are in better shape now than they were two years ago. African-Americans are assessing race relations and prospects for the future more positively than at any time in the past 25 years.

Yet others might argue the contrary, that a number of high profile race-related incidents over the past year suggest a lack of progress. Henry Louis GatesGlenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, tea-party goers, the New York Post and, most recently, Senator Harry Reid are just some of those who have been involved in controversial events which have led to questions, criticism and scrutiny about exactly how much racial progress has been made under Obama’s presidency.

Yet, expectations that President Obama could single-handedly overturn centuries-old individual prejudices and systematic racial issues – particularly in the space of one year – was merely setting him up for failure. There have been enough successful and powerful Americans of colour to suggest that one person’s acheivement will not radically alter the day-to-day lives of the rest. Nor should it be left to one person to bear that responsibility. In fact, by adopting the notion that casting a vote is enough and that all subsequent efforts are to be made by the president and his administration, people are absolved of their own responsibility for creating a society that works well for everyone.

The most important question now, going forward, is how to get to the root of the matter – so that the situations which lead to higher than average unemployment rates for minorities, even when there is no recession, and disparities in healthcare, education, economics and elsewhere no longer exist. It is here that an opportunity for something new lies.

Since President Obama’s inauguration, there have been repeated calls for more talk about race as the key to solving issues and improving race relations. However, if there’s anything the past year has taught us, it is that Americans already talk a great deal about that topic. If talking about race were the only, or best, way to end race-related issues, they would surely have ended a long time ago.

Racism – indeed, any –ism – and race-related issues arise from a fundamental, and often subconscious, belief that people are unequal. When Martin Luther King gave his famous “Dream” speech in 1963, he proclaimed his desire to see an America which would hold “self-evident, that all men are created equal”.

Unfortunately having an African-American president does not mean that all people believe that “all men are created equal.” Indeed, some of the views that have been expressed since the inauguration suggest that there are those who clearly still see the president himself as not being equal.

If President Obama is to really fulfil Dr King’s dream, and to make a real difference in his presidency when it comes to America’s race relations, it will be by having the notion that “all men are created equal” come to life as an integral part of American beliefs, such that all America’s systems – educational, economic and the rest – continue to change to reflect that. Until that happens, it is likely that we will see a continuation of disparities that will limit not only minorities but America as a whole.