The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board.
And … he strikes again.
If you guessed that “he” refers to President Donald Trump, you are not only correct, but also are aware of all the infamous judgements that have come from one of the world’s most influential leaders.
Trump expressed his disdain against developing nations at an immigration meeting, as reported by the Washington Post. This specific insult came up when lawmakers were discussing the possibility of offering protections to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and some African countries. Trump had already announced a few days earlier that he would end the program known as Temporary Protected Status that had been allowing Salvadorians to work in the U.S. since 2001, which would lead to the deportation of nearly 200,000 Salvadorians. To add fuel to the fire, he blurted out the question: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” While Trump’s impetuous remarks no longer come as a surprise to the vast majority of Americans and the international community alike, this does not mean that any of his degrading comments are any less offensive and should be overlooked. Invoking the bottom of toilets to describe developing countries across the globe is arguably one of his most insulting and derogatory comments to this day.
Coming from someone with such authority and influence, the use of the word “shithole” in public is unprofessional. And yet what is more worrisome is that Trump’s audience now has a misrepresentative image of what developing countries across the world look like. Before judging these lower- and middle-income countries, Trump should bear in mind that many of these nations have been exploited for their natural resources in the past and left in worsened conditions because developed countries, including the U.S., have used them to their favor. While it is not fair to blame the underdevelopment of countries on this factor alone, European colonialism and American imperialism have certainly aggravated the situation.
As someone that comes from Colombia, a developing nation, his remarks not only disrespect my nation, but are also very untrue. My country, like many others that find themselves in a similar situation, has had to deal with long periods of violence and economic hardships and nonetheless continues to strive forward to reinvent itself. Colombia just signed a peace treaty in 2016 to end a 50-year-long armed conflict between the government and the main guerrilla group, FARC.
Although it is a country that still has to endure difficult socioeconomic and political barriers, its value should not be downgraded by one careless comment that was heard by millions of families across the world.
And this is just the story of one of the many countries that are currently, in one way or another, insulted by Trump’s bigotry. If only the positive things accomplished by all these countries could receive equal media coverage, the perceptions of many citizens would be one of hope and optimism rather than that of hate and hostility that has now taken flight.
No country is perfect, and the U.S. could certainly learn some things from its developing neighbors. Cuba, although often overlooked by the American government, for instance, has a healthcare system that has been recognized worldwide for its efficiency and high-level quality. In addition, its system guarantees access to healthcare to the entire population, something that many so-called developed countries struggle to accomplish.
The U.S. may be advanced in many fields, but it too has flaws that are comparable to those of the developing world. An article by Rolling Stone explores “Six Ways America Is Like a Third-World Country,” especially when it comes to gun violence, education and healthcare. Before targeting foreign countries, Trump should first take a second glance at the issues bothering American citizens back home – problems he should be helping solve.
In a country with a population that includes over 43.3 million immigrants (approximately 13.5 percent) as of 2015, according to the Migration Policy Institute, many of which have come from so-called “shithole countries,” it seems unreasonable that the president would be willing to attack such a large percentage of people living in the U.S. Immigrants make up a large portion of the population, and should be given the attention they deserve.
Immigrants matter. Developing countries matter. People matter. Regardless of how disrespectful Trump may continue to be or how many times he may deny the words that have come out of his mouth, it is important to remember that ignorance is never the answer. It is our job as citizens to prove that the term “shithole country” is not a measure of a nation’s value, nor is a derogatory comment a measure of a person’s character. I am from a developing country and I am proud of that. No “shitty” remarks can take that away from me.