The media is in a frenzy about President Trump’s recent derogatory comments on immigrants coming from “shithole” countries. Left- and right-wing publications were quick to pick polarized sides on the issue. Left-wing news sources (and some Democratic politicians) immediately said that Trump’s comments were racist, repulsive, and inexcusable. Right-wing sources tried to explain away Trump’s remarks by saying that “shithole” is just a colorful way of saying what we all know to be true—that Haiti, El Salvador and many African countries are in extreme poverty and may not be places that we should tap into for new immigrants. And here we are, in the middle, trying to make sense of this from a non-partisan perspective. And as usual, we conclude that both sides are wrong. First we saw some controversy over whether Trump indeed used the word “shithole.” Illinois Senator Durbin (D) told the media that Trump asked “why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Many legislators refused to confirm or deny that Trump said this, but Senator Tim Scott (R, SC) said that Durbin’s quote was “basically accurate,” according to Newsweek. Personally, I trust Senator Scott’s testimony here. I’m going to use some majorly stereotypical SJW language here, so please bear with me while I “unpack” why Trump’s words are “problematic.”
The problem I noticed with right-wing coverage of the incident is that it focused on the word “shithole.” This reminds me a lot about how the right wing interpreted the leaked tapes where Trump referred to “grabbing” women “by the pussy.” People on the right claimed that liberals were simply offended by Trump using the word “pussy,” when liberals were really upset that Trump was bragging about grabbing women sexually who had not given explicit consent. We can look at it more broadly by interpreting Trump’s clarification that “when you’re a star, they let you” as consent. But, it’s important to acknowledge that in our culture rife with sexual harassment and more severe sexual misconduct happening regularly, it’s vital to get explicit consent before engaging in sexual grabbing. Thus, it is completely understandable that people on both sides of the aisle were perturbed by Trumps’ “grab em by the pussy” comments, and I can empathize with the people who rescinded their endorsements of him after hearing the recording. Once again, Trump’s supporters are misinterpreting liberal outrage on Trump’s “shithole" comment by saying that liberals are “triggered” by hearing “shithole.” This is not the case. Profanity in politics has been a near constant since the days of LBJ, if not longer. One needs only turn on the TV to hear some liberal late-night political commentators to hear language so vulgar. But the outrage wasn’t simply a result of him calling African nations (also Haiti and El Salvador) "shitholes". It was because he posed the question of why we want people to come here from said countries. The answer is obvious; the United States is the land of opportunity. We are so prosperous that we have always made it possible for immigrants to come here to better their lives. Even if they come from the worst places on earth, they should be given a chance to assimilate and contribute to our society. Many so-called conservatives are saying that these "shitholers" are coming here and bringing all the terrible aspects of their country with them to drag down our country. This couldn't be further from the truth. Immigrants come here more than willing to shed the negative aspects of their culture in order to pursue the American Dream. They are trying to come here because we are the greatest country in the world and they want to be a part of it. They want to come here because they DON'T want to live in a "shithole," and coming to America may be their only shot at ever escaping that environment.
Liberals also jump to faulty conclusions about the "shithole" comments. It was immediately presumed that Trump was saying that he didn't want black people coming here from Africa or Haiti. He said he'd prefer to see new immigrants from Norway. Leftist commentators could not have more quickly held this up as an example of Trump only wanting white European immigrants and not black or brown people from Haiti or El Salvador. And it was wrong of them to immediately boil "shithole" down to a racially-charged term. What do many African countries, Haiti, and El Salvador have in common? Extreme poverty, violence, poor valuation of human rights, etc. Norway is a highly developed country with a strong economy, low crime, and one of the best human rights track records in the world. Clearly, one could look at the conditions of these countries referred to as "shitholes," and conclude that they are objectively worse places than Norway without looking at or considering the pigment of their occupants.
So, in conclusion, I hope we've learned three lessons: Conservatives--Don's assume that liberals are triggered over dirty words. Liberal comedians say the most vile things and most liberals don't bat an eye. Always assume that liberals are offended by the CONTEXT of the mean words. That is usually the case. Liberals-- Don't assume that Trump or Republicans are racist as a default position. We should be able to acknowledge that people of color are living in poor conditions without you assuming that we are blaming them or hating them for critiquing their society. You often critique and stereotype poor white culture from an academic standpoint and presumably don't do so in a prejudiced way. Finally and most importantly, President Trump--Please consider the impact of your words. I'm not saying that you shouldn't be honest or "call it as you see it." I'm not saying to censor yourself in the name of political correctness. I'm saying that as leader of the free world, you need to understand that the United States is a shining city on a hill. As President Reagan paraphrased the Book of Matthew, our beacon "guides freedom-loving people everywhere." Freedom-loving people have sacrificed everything to have the opportunity to become Americans. Throughout American history, people have come here from the "shitholes" of the world and America has welcomed them with open arms. Please have the empathy to realize that Americans have enough wealth and prosperity to share with immigrants seeking a better future. This is not to argue for unbridled immigration or open borders or anything like that. But understand that the vast majority of Americans are people whose ancestors came from "shitholes." Rather than reject people who wish to pledge allegiance to our flag because of their country of origin, please continue to allow diverse people to come here and become part of the Melting Pot. Make an effort to show respect to minorities, regardless of their country of origin. And please, recognize that people from every corner of the globe have made great contributions to our country and regardless of what "shitholes" we came from, we all want to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.