Sh*thole Countries, Trump, Differences, and MLK Day
In an immigration meeting on Thursday President Donald Trump posed this question: “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? They’re shithole countries … We should have more people from Norway.” (Mr. Trump also linked Haiti to his comment.)
First, let’s dispense with ‘did he say it’ inquiries. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) confirmed the statement. Staffers at the White House claimed the comment would play well with Trump’s supporters. Initially, the White House did not deny the reports. And Mr. Trump bragged about the comment to his friends.
Second, shame on those elected Republicans – almost of those who have addressed the comment – who discount its meaning. I’ll single out just one here: Representative Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), my Congresswoman. Ms. McSally announced her Senate run on Friday, January 12. About the Trump comment: Like Trump, she says, she can also “speak a little salty behind closed doors at times.”
Onward. Mr. Trump talks constantly about differences. Documenting the facts take time, so thanks go to Jamelle Bouie for his piece for Slate, Donald Trump Is a Racist, Jesse Burch, with Trump’s Long History of Racism for Rolling Stone, and David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick, who wrote Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List for the New York Times. Documentation aside – and I welcome evidence that the Boss Man really gets vive la difference, as to gender and race / national origin – I don’t like the baggage which comes with the racist label.
Let me be clear: Donald J. Trump deserves the ‘racist’ label. But what I try to understand goes deeper. Why does race matter in America? What, deeply in so many psyches, causes people to crave sameness?
I’m not trying to pull a muscle patting myself on the back. And I live in a bubble: a bigger bubble than many bubbles I see, but a bubble just the same. But I’m not focused on bubbles. We do tend to stick by our own, although some do so more than others.
I am also not writing to suggest that race does not matter in America. There’s plenty of fine writing – deeper than anything I can put forth – about why race does matter. (My President Was Black by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Race Matters by Cornel West provide worthy and differing analyses.) But Mr. Coates and Dr. West address race as an issue, through the prism of the centuries-old battle between Black and White Americans.
I’m elsewhere, trying to understand what animates the animus. What explains the discomfort? The hatred? For sure, politicians have used The Other for more than 150 years to advance their careers. Struggling in the 1850s? Blame it on the Irish. Today? Those lazy Mexicans are stealing your jobs. And China too! In between, pick any race or nationality, and you can tell the same story.
Only receptive audiences can accept blaming The Other, though. So, while we must call out those who pander, it’s all about the animus.
People sort. Gender. Color. Class. Religion. Etc. And, without doubt, some among us exist in more primal states. Still, I don’t understand the animus. I cannot imagine a world of sameness, without color and cultural differences. And, frankly, I don’t think anyone else wants that world, for real. We want our international culture, food, and art. Some of us, sadly, want that mix … without the people in their midst. Why?
We honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther Ling today. He told us “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” He also shared his dream that his “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” We can agree or disagree about whether we’ve achieved Dr. King’s dream, and about where we are on that arc. But until we understand why the differences matter so much to so manner, we’ll be a long way from where we can be.