The Thursday before last, President Trump met with lawmakers in the Oval Office to discuss a bipartisan immigration plan. The plan involved cutting the visa lottery in half, with the rest going to underrepresented countries in Africa and Temporary Protective Status nations such as Haiti. Sources who attended the meeting have confirmed the president made the following statements: In reference to the people from Africa included in the plan, Trump stated, “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” Furthermore, Trump specifically targeted people from Haiti when he said: “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”
To say that these statements are “insensitive” is a gross understatement. A better description would be deplorable, disgraceful, shameful and, not to mention, inaccurate. The entire incident is reflective of an administration with failing character. It is reflective of a current mindset in this country that is racist, uninformed and narrow-minded.
Over the past year, I have noticed a disturbing pattern on the news. Every day, there is a new story about President Trump, and it is always something more shocking than the previous day. It makes watching the news feel like more of a reality TV show than “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” and the shock value of his recent comments about Africa and Haiti undoubtedly boosted ratings. However, the presidency was not created for the purpose of entertainment. The president of the United States is regarded as the most powerful leader in the modern world. We are treating this presidency like our very own reality TV show.
Enough is enough. The American people are not an audience of viewers. The consequences of Trump’s behavior are vast, and someone needs to hold him accountable before it is too late.
The first step in holding the president accountable for his dangerous behavior requires being informed enough to dispel his never-ending spout of lies. As Africa and Haiti are his most recent targets, let’s use them as an example. It is unclear how the president himself determines whether or not a country is a shithole. However, if we look at some basic data on global development, his ignorance on the matter becomes pretty clear. The president probably doesn’t know that, according to Business Insider, “six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies of the past decade are in sub-Saharan Africa.” Additionally, Botswana serves as a stark example of Africa’s economic and political advances. According to the World Bank, “Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom, Botswana has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies, averaging 5 percent per annum over the past decade.” It also has “a stable political environment with a multi-party democratic tradition.” This is a pretty far cry from Trump’s self-described “shithole,” wouldn’t you say?
Moving on to the people of Haiti, who the president doesn’t think contribute to his America. In 2010, a devastating earthquake struck the people of Haiti, which led to the displacement of 1.5 million people. Hundreds of thousands of earthquake victims sought refuge in the United States under a temporary visa that is set to expire on Jan. 22. Currently, Haitians account for less than 2 percent of the U.S. foreign-born population, but President Trump doesn’t think that we need any more and wants to “take them out” of the country. Once again, it is unclear exactly what the president’s problem with Haitian people is, but one can assume there is prejudiced undertones.
I wonder if the president knows that Haiti, as a former slave colony, was the site of the first successful modern slave rebellion. Or about the huge contribution that Haitians made to the United States when Thomas Jefferson was able to acquire the Louisiana Territory — which comprises one-fourth of our nation’s continuous land mass — from Napoleon because the French general, among other woes, was unable to subdue Haitian troops trained by Toussaint L'Ouverture, a Black Haitian general. Without Haitian people, this country would not be as powerful as it is today. As we are a nation built by the hands of immigrants, this should come as no surprise; apparently our president isn’t educated on how his privilege came about.
Of course, President Trump didn’t just become a racist. It has been a disturbing part of his career. During the 2016 election, it was building a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants. Last year, it was the Islamophobia-filled Muslim ban. Now, it is his rhetoric against the people of Africa and Haiti. And that is just a brief history of people who have been targeted by the ignorant, unwise bigot who is our president. A quick Google search will turn up dozens more alarming incidents of racism, sexism and xenophobia. The list goes on and on.
With the Trump administration, every day is a new story. Our president is a former reality star, and his politics have become a reality TV show. The proof is in the numbers: The first quarter of 2017 was CNN’s most-watched quarter in 14 years and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow held the number one spot for the 25-54 age demographic at 9 p.m. in March. Recently, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” just celebrated its 14th season along with a boost in ratings that likely stems from all of those Kylie Jenner pregnancy rumors. Clearly, the American public thrives on being entertained. Except in the case of the Trump presidency, the consequences of entertainment oftentimes involve people’s lives. This is most alarming to me. Who is going to start taking his words more seriously? How many more seasons will President Trump be renewed for?
To me, the way that the President spoke about the people of Africa and Haiti reflects deep-rooted racist values that are inherent among his followers, one of the most outspoken of which is Richard Spencer, an alt-right white nationalist. As a student at the University of Michigan, I cannot help but think about the possibility that Richard Spencer will be allowed to speak on our campus. To me, it shouldn’t even be a question: free speech or not, there is no room for hate speech on this campus. Yet, the debate still continues in a manner that is eerily similar to the presidency. Again, I ask: Who is going to stand up and condemn racism once and for all?
At the time of this writing, it is Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, and I cannot help but wonder what Dr. King would have to say about all of this. To quote him, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”