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 to do with 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 reside in those other apparently undesirable places and 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.