Yes, the President crashed through the floor with his ‘shithole countries’ comment. But as someone who is set to travel to one of those countries, I feel I’ll now have to defend the indefensible.
I really wish, as many of us do, that our President would just stop.
The President’s latest comment, calling African nations and Haiti shitholes, is wrong, ignorant and racist (I can see a number of my friends who support the President rolling their eyes at that word, but I’ll get to that), and doesn’t represent the ideals that this country says it represents. On top of that, continuing comments like this create a country more divided here at home, and have the potential to undermine American interests and security abroad.
This particular comment comes at a time when I am preparing to embark on an aid mission abroad to a specific part of Nigeria (which has been hit hard over the last few years), the most populous country in Africa. I can imagine the number of conversations I’ll have while I’m there where my Nigerian colleagues and colleagues from other countries in Africa turn to me and say, “What the f–k?” My answer to that is, I don’t know. I could apologise for the guy and I probably will, because when he speaks, the world hears America speaking. I could say that his views do not represent the majority of our views, and they don’t, at least according to the popular vote. I could say those comments do contain both our ignorance and prejudice.
The word “racist” is a word that gets to some of my friends who support this President. They’ll declare it’s not about race. I used the word racist above about the comments that were made. If you make comments denigrating countries of one race or skin colour and imply they aren’t welcome and then you say people from other countries of another race or skin colour are welcome, I don’t know how else you classify the comments other than racist. Which is why I used the word.
As far as the comments being ignorant, well, they just are. I hate to point this out but we Americans are pretty ignorant of geography, labeling an entire continent with 54 countries and 1.2 billion people a shithole is ignorant. What else would you call it?
Continuing comments like this create a country more divided here at home, and have the potential to undermine American interests and security abroad.
Now, the argument on the right that I’ve heard from the talking heads was just to deflect the comment and say, “Oh, he was just talking about merit-based immigration.” Cool, no problem, can he do that without insulting large swaths of humanity? And while we’re on the subject of merit-based immigration, 37% of Nigerian-Americans (who the President insulted a few months back) hold Bachelor’s degrees and 17% hold Master’s degrees (that was part of a 2006 census – depending on where you look, the number gets higher), which in regards to educational attainment is one of the highest in the country. I don’t think most Americans are against the idea of a merit-based system or an in-depth, honest conversation about immigration and immigration laws, but that can be done without insulting anybody.
Then there are those who say, “Oh, they’re just words, the President was just talking tough, don’t get offended, Snowflake.” Oh please, Hillary Clinton made one stupid deplorable comment and y’all got T-shirts printed.
Then there are those that say, “Well, it’s just talk.” But look at foreign policy actions. For instance, Obama and the drone strikes. First off, Trump has talked about using more drones. Second, at least as of June last year, there were reports that more civilians had died as a result of US bombing in the war against ISIS under Trump than Obama. I should note, I’m not making an argument here for anything. I’m a firm believer there should be a national discussion around the use of drones and security policy as to whether or not we engage in all these conflicts around the world. I’d take that line with Clinton, Trump, or Obama.
So, like I said, if the country or our leaders want to have real policy debates around those things while talking about realities and not prejudiced stereotypes, cool, that’s all good; but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. In fact, real policy debates and decisions based on facts and actual priorities of what helps and harms us would be a most welcome change from the daily tweetstorm.
I, for one, after having lived abroad for six years in both the Mid-East and Africa, where people were very good to me, am anxious to travel out into the world again. And I will say that these words don’t speak for me. And someday, I hope they don’t speak for the country anymore either.