Poor Donald Trump. He was simply asking for information, and they’re all over him as if he were a racist thug. His choice of words was unfortunate, but the angels rejoice when an ignorant person seeks enlightenment. We should answer his question.
What Trump asked Jan. 11 was: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” The members of Congress who were meeting with him are clear that by “shithole countries” he meant Central American and African countries. El Salvador and Haiti came in for special mention.
What marks these countries out is that many of them are very poor, and some of them are plagued by war, crime and/or massive corruption. But most immigrants to the U.S. have always come from countries like that.
The first wave of Irish who went to the United States in the mid-19th century were driven by famine at home. The German, Polish and Italian immigrants of the same period were fleeing poverty; the Russian Jews were also fleeing anti-Semitic violence. They were all “shithole countries” at the time.
They are safer, more prosperous places now, and the sources of the migrant flows have changed — but the motives of the migrants have not. They want to come to the United States because they think it’s better than where they live now. But Donald Trump had another question, too.
He wanted to know why the U.S. couldn’t bring in immigrants from non-shithole places like Norway instead. This is harder to answer, because the whole concept of a shithole depends on your perspective. From a Norwegian viewpoint, the United States is... well, let’s leave that question to Dr. Christian Christensen, a Norwegian-American currently living in Sweden, who tweeted as follows:
“Of course people from #Norway would love to move to a country where people are far more likely to get shot, live in poverty, get no healthcare because they are poor, get no paid parental leave or subsidised daycare, and see fewer women in political power. #Shithole.”
He wanted to know why the U.S. couldn’t bring in immigrants from non-shithole places like Norway instead. This is harder to answer, because the whole concept of a shithole depends on your perspective.
A bit heavy on the sarcasm, but you get the point. Trump will have to make do with immigrants who are — how shall we put this? — darker than Norwegians.
And this brings us to the heart of the matter. Trump is a racist; such a dyed-in-the-wool racist that he is virtually unconscious of it. He openly says that he prefers immigrants from nice, white countries like Norway to brown or black immigrants from “shithole countries.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson told his audience that Trump’s “shithole” comments were “something that almost every single person in America actually agrees with.” Wrong. What he should have said was “almost every single American who watches Fox News.”
Very few non-white Americans agree with this kind of talk, and a large number of white Americans, maybe as many as half, don’t either. That adds up to a 65 to 70 per cent majority who don’t agree. Trump will not win this argument, and Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, knows it.
“There are, I have to say, a growing number of white Americans who are afraid of and do not want to see the browning of America. They have a picture-perfect 1950s view of mother wearing an apron, as dad, in a hat, goes off to work. It looks a lot more like them than it does me, but America is starting to look more like me.”
Michael Steele is an African-American.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.