After The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump used highly controversial and racially charged language while surrounded by lawmakers in the Oval Office on Jan. 11, many around the world condemned him. His comments, allegedly spoken during a bipartisan immigration deal, reported him saying, “Why are we having all these people from ‘shithole’ countries come here?”
He was said to be referring to Haiti, El Salvador and African countries discussed in the deal, and then suggested that immigrants would preferably come from Norway. If Trump said these comments, he deserves condemnation on every level — from the general public to the silent lawmakers present that day. So, as we move forward, the focus should not solely be on the racist subtext of his comments, but additionally the unprofessional behavior, beneath the dignity of the Office of the President, exhibited by articulating those words.
On the most fundamental level, Trump’s remark that we should not accept immigrants from these countries is morally and ethically flawed, contrary to the long-standing principles of a country built on immigration. Historically, those who immigrate come to the United States seeking a better life. Nonetheless, their desire to seek an improved life in our country cannot be generalized to mean that their native country has no merits and so, these individuals are less worthy of the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
It is inconceivable that anyone — even Trump and his base — would argue that there are not racial overtones in what he said, especially considering the common perception is that a country such as Norway consists of white, Anglo-Europeans. Additionally, The New York Times closely reported in 2017 that Trump allegedly stereotyped people from countries like Haiti, claiming that they “all have AIDS,” or that Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts” when they saw the United States.
Although Trump did not indicate that being the reason he would prefer immigrants from Norway, the statistics offered by the Central Intelligence Agency makes a comparison between the two countries possible. They found Norway to have a non-existent rate of people living with HIV/AIDS versus Haiti that, as of 2016, has approximately 150,000 people living with the virus. Therefore, it is not an overreach to assume that Trump meant the comment as many may interpret it.
Politico reported that Chief Executive of Newsmax Chris Ruddy, a friend of Trump, said, “Everyone makes kitchen table talk.” He is not incorrect. People regretfully say hateful things in their own homes. Additionally, Trump’s remarks resound during an era when we vilify insensitive comments, yet feel obligated to express the first thought that crosses our minds and fits into 280 characters. Known since his term began as the 140-character president, he never clocks out from public discourse — transitioning from a work environment in the Oval Office to his Twitter account that has amassed 46.8 million followers.
So, given the frequent overlap in Trump’s professional life — where he meets with lawmakers and other officials to make decisions for the United States — and his personal life, where he makes these decisions immediately for public consumption on Twitter, it is unsurprising that the two are now indistinguishable. Moreover, although Ruddy asserted that if what was reported was true that it was inappropriate, his follow-up assertion that these kinds of words are “kitchen table talk” normalizes Trump’s behavior. Additionally, Ruddy is justifying any individual entering the workplace who refuses to curb his or her foul language or, more importantly, hateful rhetoric.
It is absolutely essential that we rebuke Trump’s words since they not only misrepresent many countries in a particular region of the world, but also tarnish the perception of how the leader of our country should conduct themselves. When we enter work environments, we are required to leave personal bias at the door. For that reason alone, it is inexcusable that Trump should be treated differently than any other person in an official meeting for their job. Therefore, since Trump maintains the assertion reported by The Guardian that he is “the least racist person,” he is clearly ignorant of the effect that his words have in the way that our country is depicted and perceived. Therefore, lawmakers and the public are responsible for speaking up and insisting that he accept accountability for his inappropriate words and behavior and in the future, adhere to the high standards expected from the Office of the President of the United States.