In a recent White House meeting with congressional leaders to discuss immigration reform, Donald Trump reportedly asked, “Why do we want all these people from shithole countries to come here?” as opposed to other countries, such as Norway. There is now discussion underway about whether Trump was crudely describing African nations alone or also referring to people from Haiti and El Salvador.
Whether he was speaking about just some or all of those countries really does not matter. The bottom line is that the president’s comments were offensive, tasteless and simply wrong and show no compassion for the poor.
He uttered these intemperate words just days before Black History Month, when we not only celebrate the remarkable contributions of Black Americans, but also remember and strive to learn from the many injustices visited upon them from Revolutionary days to the present. Trump’s trashy talk has prompted yet another discussion of his relationship with the Black community in America, which has repeatedly felt alienated by his rhetoric and also by his associations with people accused of harboring closeted or outright racist views.
Using insulting and inappropriate language toward other countries demeans the office of the presidency. Such missteps have led people of color across the nation and across the world to raise serious concerns about Trump, his character and his relationship with minorities.
Ours is a country that prides itself on being a land of opportunity and the place where freedom for all is guaranteed. We cannot effectively lead the world if our president speaks dismissively and heartlessly about human beings from other countries, especially those who are hoping to create better lives for their families in America.
In many ways, America was built on the backs of Black people forced to come here from Africa. We have come a long way since those terrible days of human bondage, but there is much work that still remains to be done.
Part of what frustrates me is not just the outrageousness of the president’s comments, but the fact that he continues to make unforced errors that rally his political adversaries and those who wish to see his agenda fail. Even worse, he is undercutting and undermining the very real economic progress that his administration has in a short time been able to deliver to the African-American community.
In the 45 years since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking Black unemployment, the Black unemployment rate for the first time has dropped below 7 percent to just 6.8 percent. The new economic policies put into place by the Trump administration have stabilized job growth and increased investor and consumer confidence. Our president is a remarkable businessman who clearly understands and is sympathetic to the needs of corporations as an essential way to create jobs and provide economic opportunity for our citizens. Since Trump’s swearing in, the stock market has surged forward, delivering wealth into the pockets of Americans from every economic level with the good sense to save and invest.
When comparing the data to previous years, nearly half a million (480,000) more Black workers are employed compared with one year ago. As the economy steadily improves for African-Americans, it creates new opportunities that many have not been able to take advantage of because of prior lack of employment.
These new economic opportunities for the Black community are tangible and impactful. Which makes it even more painful to hear the president insult countries whose citizens’ skin is brown and Black.
It goes without saying that the president of the United States should be held to the highest of standards as the chief representative and commander in chief of this nation. Comments like those lower the bar and are not just bad for the president and his agenda, but for every one of us. It’s a pity because Trump is enacting bold and growth-oriented changes that are ultimately creating more economic prosperity for a community that needs it the most.
At the end of the day, this latest controversy conveys a lesson that we would all be wise to learn. If you are going to be a supporter of the Black community, then it is not enough to solely pursue policies that are good for us. You must show through your actions, and also through your words, that you are capable of both giving and earning respect. Until that happens, Black people and people of color around the world are going to continue to question what is truly in Trump’s heart.
Mr. Williams is manager/sole owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. Listen to Mr. Williams on Sirius XM126 Urban View nightly, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., EST. Follow on Twitter @arightside.