When it was revealed that President Trump called Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries “sh**hole countries,” it ignited a firestorm. According to mainstream American media, members of Congress were present at the Jan. 11 meeting at the White House about immigration policy, and Trump questioned why America would accept immigrants from such countries, instead of people from countries like Norway. Trump mentioned Norway, perhaps, because he had just met the Norwegian prime minister the previous day.
Calling two Latin American countries and African countries “sh**hole countries” was absolutely and diplomatically unacceptable. No country considers such language reported by the media as politically correct. This incident has definitely affected Trump’s own image, made the world see America as even more irresponsible, and presented a more negative image of America overall.
This leads us to believe that, in fact, most white Americans do see poor Latin American and African countries this way. It was just that Trump was not good at holding back and expressed these sentiments out loud. White politicians and members of the media may have the same view, even as they criticize Trump.
In a broader sense, the whole Western world has some degree of regional and racial prejudice. One can hear comments similar to Trump’s claim about poor countries at dinner tables and private parties, even if they are covered up by the mainstream media.
Trump’s election was the result of a surging tide of white populism in America, and his unfiltered words expressed the emotions of such believers. While plenty of the political and media elite criticized him, there’s also some acceptance of his style. Whether this incident will damage his brand of politics remains to be seen.
What is worth noting is that this comment was made in a closed-door meeting at the White House, and was exposed by someone at the meeting. The continued leaks from the White House have shown a lack of basic political consensus and unity at the highest political level. The level of infighting has far overpowered the “American national interest.” It is necessary for Trump to be careful of everything he says at the White House, just as if he were making a speech, and he’s obviously not used to such self-restraint.
It is not news that Trump is biased against the non-Western world. This kind of bias has existed in most white American societies, and may even permeate the Western world, something which is an open secret.
Yet American society needs immigrants; it is undisputed that prosperity in the West cannot survive without the multifaceted contributions of developing countries. The latter have determined what the moral and legal consensus is on strict racial discrimination in America and the West; however, political infighting in America has made this consensus hard to maintain even at the most basic level, something which has proven to be an issue.
American immigrants who came from poor countries are sure to react, too. Haiti and El Salvador have protested Trump’s comment, and the discontent among other Latin American and African countries will not dissipate either. However, none of these reactions will produce major changes to American politics.
The biggest uncertainty is coming from within America. If American news reports are accurate, Trump was caught red-handed making the comment, and it would be hard for him to defend or justify his behavior. Trump’s enemies are free to use this against him in any way they want, and are unlikely to show mercy.
America is facing the challenge of a rapidly changing world. The advantages America enjoyed during its prime are fading, but the country is still very advanced. When the shortcomings in the American leader’s ability to govern are shown, American society becomes anxious, and hesitant, too. The current American president’s style and speech are very different from past presidents, making the White House unpredictable, and fragmenting American society. Right now, it is hard to judge whether this fragmentation is a normal cyclical change or a fatal break. We can only wait and see.