Let Trump's Derogatory Comment Serve as a Wake-Up Call for Us Haitians
January 16, 2018 | 5h36 PM ET
MIAMI -- Last month, the New York Times reported that US President Donald Trump had made a very offensive comment about Haitians - that they "all have AIDS" - during a June meeting about immigration in the Oval Office. Of course, The White House strongly denied it. However, based on the fact that Trump is known for multiple racist comments made in the past, many observers believe that he had made such comment about Haitian people.
While Haitians in Haiti and abroad were preparing to commemorate the eighth anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters to hit their country, another report surfaced reaffirming Trump's obsession with race, his stance against Black and brown immigrants, especially Haitians.
The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey is reporting that President Trump made a similar comment about wanting more immigrants from places like Norway rather than from "shithole countries" like Haiti, El Salvador and those in Africa.
"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" he is reported to have told lawmakers during a meeting in the Oval Office on Thursday (January 11), according to two people briefing on the session.
Black and Brown immigrants are not welcome
Trump's most recent comments are proof that he views immigrants from certain countries as not as welcome as others in the United States during his presidency. This time Mr. Trump is not able to hide his racist face. The fact he clearly suggested during the January 11's Oval Office meeting that United States of America need more immigrants from places like Norway (which is overwhelmingly white) rather than Haiti and Africa (which are overwhelmingly black) is evidence that Trump is racist. We must believe that RACISM is in his DNA.
After basically three years under the political spotlight, should we be surprised about any Trump new offensive comment and his racist behavior. It is well documented.
President Trump appears to have a habit of making offensive comments to non-white immigrants. According to The New York Post's report, Trump added in that June meeting that immigrants from Nigeria, once they saw the United States, would never "go back to their huts." Is it really any surprise that he again focused his comments on African countries and Haiti, out of all the countries in the world?
There was a time President Trump said that Mexican illegal immigrants were "bringing crime" and were "rapists" and said there were "very fine people on both sides" after violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, left one counter-protester dead. Trump has gotten into public disputes with a beauty queen and the Muslim parents of a dead soldier.
All these facts lend credence to report Trump said Haitians 'all have AIDS' last June and Haiti is a shithole' country. The fact that the president feels comfortable making offensive remarks and comments behind closed doors with lawmakers makes people wonder what else he has said behind closed doors.
Witnesses confirmed the reported words
Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), who attended the meeting in question, are claiming not to have heard any such comments. They later denied the president did. But, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told a newspaper that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who also attended the meeting, told him the reports were accurate. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., confirmed Trump made the remark, as well as other derogatory comments. Many lawmakers are inclined to believe Trump did say this.
Trump denies comment but acknowledges 'tough' language
After a night of broadcasters debating whether to quote Trump's vulgarity out loud or bleep it, on Friday morning Trump tweeted a denial that he had used such language at all.
"Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said "take them out." Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!"
While on vacation in his Mar-A-Lago West Palm Beach golf course, Florida, during the Martin Luther King weekend, President Donald Trump told reporters that he is the "least racist person they have ever interviewed."
"No, no, I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you," Trump said.
This is not the first time Trump has responded to charges of racism and prejudice. Last February, the president said during a press conference at the White House that he was "the least anti-Semitic person you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person."
On Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham took a dig at fellow Republican senators David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas over their denial that President Trump called Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations "shithole countries."
"My memory hasn't evolved," Graham told the Post and Courier. "I know what was said, and I know what I said."
Condemnation from around the world
President Donald Trump's reported complaints about immigrants coming to the United States from "shithole countries" have prompted condemnation from around the world. Global leaders are calling Trump's reference inaccurate and racist amid bipartisan backlash to the comment from U.S. lawmakers.
A number of African leaders have particularly condemned Trump's "racist and xenophobic" language.
US Democratic and Republican lawmakers criticized those comments as "divisive" and "unacceptable," while Haiti summoned the top American diplomat there to discuss Trump's remarks.
Republican Rep. Mia Love of Utah, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, said Trump's comments were "unkind, divisive, elitist and fly in the face of our nation's values." She continued to say that this behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation and Trump must apologize to the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned."
Trump is a racist. Period.
UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville condemned Trump's remarks as "shocking and shameful" and going against the world's "universal values."
"I'm sorry, but there's no other word one can use but racist," Colville said, responding to reporters at a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland. "You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 'shitholes' whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome."
Haiti's ambassador to the US, Paul Altidor said that President Donald Trump's recent comments about Haiti "hurt the country," adding that he hopes the President will visit the nation.
"The words, they did hurt the community, they did hurt the country of Haiti," Paul Altidor told CNN's "New Day." "It hurt because one, it's an insult to our dignity, but more importantly, it's because too much of Haiti is misunderstood."
There is no such 'shithole' country in fact
Donald Trump, as many of his avid supporters do not know Haiti's history and we believe the President is not interested to know. It is better to say that the actual US President simply knows nothing about United Sates' history.
Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert - who left France in 2013 to begin his NBA career - had a perfect response for President Trump and his avid supporters, such as Fox News regular Tomi Lahren, an American conservative political commentator, after she tweeted: "If they aren't shithole countries, why don't their citizens stay there?" Let's be honest. Call it like it is.
The French-born tweeted as a reply: Do you know what it means to have Dreams? To actually have to work for something? Does the fact that I (Rudy Gobert) left France to come chase my dream here makes France a shithole? Or that just applies to African countries? Getting paid to divide people really looks like a shitty job.
CNN's Andrew Kaczynski also replied to ask Tomi Lahren: Why do you live/work in California/NYC instead of your native South Dakota?
We must note that about 9 million Americans have moved overseas - and it's not because the U.S. is a 'shithole' country. In other words, expatriated Americans aren't necessarily leaving the United States because the United States is particularly terrible. They're leaving for opportunity or personal relationships or any one of a million reasons.
Trump has a long way to go to understand the enormous contributions of Haiti and Haitians to United States of America, especially at a historical dimension - Haiti at some point helped USA fight in one of its most incredible wars. During World War II Haiti played no active role, however it supplied the United States with raw materials and served as a base for a United States Coast Guard detachment.
Trump apparently does not appreciate the contributions of the many ablest Haitians to the United States economy such as doctors, engineers, attorneys, accountants, academics, etc.
Trump is wrong
Trump's alleged remark is an insult for all Haitians, Salvadorians and citizens from the entire African continent referred as 'shithole' countries. Haitians are particularly taking to social media to denounce and give the US president their piece of mind. Of course, a true Haitian should have instantly felt offended the first time he/she learned about Mr. Trump's remark. Even though our country is in bad shape does not give someone - more regrettably the President of the United States - the right to use such vulgar words to describe it.
Haitians living in New York and South Florida particularly already took to the streets to protest President Trump's racism. But can Trump's Remark be served as a wake-up call for the entire Haitian nation?
It is regrettably true that since the Declaration of its independence (January 1804) to emerge as the First Black Republic in the world, and the second nation in the western hemisphere (after the United States), Haiti has struggled to become a progressive nation, and most often has been portrayed by the international press as the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world (with a GDP per capita of US$846 in 2014). Haiti has been facing important challenges to generate faster growth and fight poverty.
Yes, Haiti is a poor, corrupt and troubled country. As Haitians, we cannot deny that. Based on inaccurate information lead by the international press, it is also viewed as dangerous and dirty.
United States are also responsible
of Haiti's Misery
We need to be cautious and not let our emotions run our thoughts about the matter. Donald Trump and his racist supporters do not know about the longtime Haiti-USA political relationship. Otherwise, they would know that the United States are to a certain degree responsible for the poor situation of Haiti by invading the first Black Republic twice since it became independent. It seemed Trump was overlooking the role American policy has played in creating the very conditions of Haiti he was deriding at the Oval office's meeting.
It is important to be reminded that after Haiti declared its independence as a free country, the world's most powerful empires did everything they could to undermine it. France refused to acknowledge the new nation existed. In the United States - then the only other independent country in the Americas - President Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, was uninterested in seeing Haiti as a free black nation succeed nearby. The slaveholding powers refused to set up official trade with Haiti, forcing the country into predatory relationships. The United States are also known for being responsible at a certain level of the continuous political turmoil in Haiti for decades, including by interfering in Haiti's politics.
A Wake-Up Call for Us Haitians
Assuming that Mr. Trump will look for a second term and taking into consideration the fact that we Haitian-Americans are not a strong political voting force that can change the outcome of a presidential election, it is understood that basically we cannot do much as a diaspora to seriously shake the actual president of the United States in the Oval Office. All we can do is denounce and condemn his behavior, hoping that he will think twice next time he will have to comment about Haiti.
If it is not as vulgar as Trump referred to Haiti, we must note that many Haitian citizens so frustrated about the way their country has been governed, had in some occasions made an inappropriate, rude comment about the motherland.
Haiti's longtime challenging political situation certainly forces many of its citizens to look for a better life in other countries, and is one of the main reasons some other nations believe that we are a burden for them. Trump's alleged comment about Haiti as a 'shithole' country should be served as a massive wake-up call for us Haitians to change the destiny of the motherland.
Yes, some dominant nations, especially United States, indeed put Haiti in this poor situation, but we Haitians (especially those who had and have the responsibility to lead the nation) are also responsible. So often, our so-called political leaders invited the international community to interfere in our affairs, instead of trying to resolve a conflictual situation among us as citizens of an independent nation. It is an opportune moment to look at ourselves in the mirror and say: this is our fault to let the motherland be the burden of some other nations. After more than two hundred years since we conquered our independence as a nation, we cannot rely on others to solve our many problems and change the course of our lives for the better. No one is coming to save/help us.
Yes, we deserve respect from others as country. But, such derogatory comment will only stop when we Haitians will come together to change our country in profound and unexpected ways; when we will choose competent politicians to be in charge of the government at all different levels; when those in power will understand that their job is to lead and serve with honesty, not to steal money of our country for themselves and their friends; when we will have a fully functional justice system where the judges inspire confidence and the citizens become law-abiding; when justice will be served to anyone justice is due whatever the person's social class; when the citizens will keep the streets clean; when education and good health will become a priority for the government; when the government will not let people from the diaspora bring in the country old and useable items they will never let them use in United States; when a police officer who is supposed to protect and serve the population against gang members is not himself/herself an affiliated gang member; when a president who is responsible for the killing of political adversaries and steels the country's money will be taken to justice and punish accordingly for his crimes.
It's essential for us to not become so distracted by President Trump's disgusting comments that we spend all our time and energy focused on him. Instead, we need to unify in our desire to rise up above the noise, the racist comments, and the hate. We need to put the pressure not just on President Trump to change his tone and positions, but those of Haiti's leaders.
Dessalines Ferdinand / Le Floridien