By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN
President Donald Trump recently described Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” while yearning for more migrants from white places such as Norway as he discussed immigration policy with lawmakers.
Republican leaders are again defending him or offering tepid criticism, with no call for action against his latest racist rant, not even censuring him. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), the House Speaker, deemed the comment “very unfortunate, unhelpful,” remarks similar to what he said when Trump responded to the violence sparked by a white racist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last August by saying there were good people on both sides.
Ryan this time took a detour to his family’s Irish immigrant roots to say, “The Irish were really looked down upon back in those days. I hear all these stories from my relatives about ‘Irish need not apply.’”
That is the sort of linguistic acrobatics which Republican leaders engage in when it comes to Trump. They have no intention of removing him from the White House, regardless of what he says, so long as he does their bidding, even though he does not know he is. The Republicans need him to continue fronting for them while they fulfil their long-held dream of dismantling the national social safety net and completing the rightwing takeover they have salivated about.
So those who, once again, are expressing shock at Trump’s language should harbor no illusion that anything will change. They should instead focus on making the facts known – in this case, the contributions of Haitians and Africans to the creation and development of the United States of America.
• Around 5,000 enslaved Africans fought in the Revolutionary War. Crispus Attucks, believed to have been the son of an African-born slave and a First Nations mother, became the first martyr in the independence struggle.
• Harper’s Magazine calculated that enslaved Africans provided a quarter billion hours of free forced labor worth roughly $300 billion today.
• Around 500 Haitians took part in a bloody but failed battle to liberate Savannah from the British. Their heroism was celebrated 228 years later when, in October 2007, a monument was unveiled in the Georgian city. “This is a testimony to tell people we Haitians didn’t come from the boat. We were here in 1779 to help America win independence,” remarked Daniel Fils-Aime, chairman of the Haitian American Historical Society in Miami Shores.
The United States will forever owe a debt to the nations from which those heroes came and should not repay it by insulting them. The problems which those countries now face are a direct legacy of brutal colonialism and neocolonialism. Africa, with an area of 11.7 million square miles, was divided into nation-states with borders cutting across tribal lands and peoples, setting Africans against one another and propping up vicious tyrannical leaders.
The continent, with a total population of 1.2 billion, now has 54 countries which continue to be exploited for their raw materials, including oil, and to be destabilized by the “war on terror.”
In Haiti, the United States, as part of a policy to stem communism in Cuba, supported the regime of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, who reduced the country to abject poverty. More recently, the January 2010 earthquake killed between 100,000 and 316,000 Haitians and left more than one million of its 11 million people homeless.
And then there is Norway. This supposed poster state for ideal immigrants to the U.S. in fact embraces immigration. Migrants numbered 660,000 or 13 percent of the population as of 2015 -325,000 or 49 percent of them coming from non-white countries such as Morocco, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan and Iran.
Only 502 Norwegians out of a population of 5.3 million immigrated to the U.S. in 2016, down by 59 over the previous year.
Dubbed the happiest nation in the world and one of the richest, this Scandinavian country cares for its citizens from birth to death.
If only Trump and his cohorts in power can say the same thing as he goes about fulfilling his promise to “make America great again.”
Christian Christensen, an American professor of journalism in Sweden, tweeted that Norwegians “would love to move to a country where people are far more likely to be shot, live in poverty, get no healthcare because they’re poor, get no paid parental leave or subsidized daycare and see far fewer women in political power.”
That is can be expected when civility is absent from public discourse.