We describe the “Underdeveloped World” / “Third World” / “The Global South” as shithole countries everyday…
Posted on 2018-01-13
Currently there is a huge uproar about U.S. President, Donald Trump, (allegedly) referring to majority black countries in Africa and Haiti as “shithole” countries. In this conversation, it is also alleged that he preferred to take black migrants out of the U.S., in favor of white immigration from European countries.
I do not doubt that Donald Trump has said these things— he’s already proven himself to be quite the racist. I only use the word ‘alleged’ since Donald Trump currently wants to change our libel laws and crack down on his “internal enemies.” And, unfortunately, I do not have the funds to be sued in regards to libel issues. Or the time to be spent in prison over what was probably said and denied or vice versa.
My major qualm with the present headlines about the whole situation, is not even the fact that Donald Trump said what he said. What I really want to know is:
Who “checked” Trump when he made these (alleged) racist comments?
Apparently, no one in the room.
Yes, they may have feigned outrage after the fact— hence these recent expose’s— but let’s be honest: No one in the room checked Trump. Everyone in the room allowed Trump to feel comfortable enough that he could continue to make racist comments on foreign countries on more than one occasion during the length of the conversation (this according to one congressman that was in the room).
So why is that?
Well, as an International Relations scholar I would need a lot more finger and toes to explain to you how my discipline talks about majority black and brown countries in my field. I would be lying, in fact, if I said ‘I’m shocked by what Trump said,’ even if we were to disregard the fact that he is racist. What Trump said, is nothing new. What Trump said, is how these countries are viewed in the academy, veiled in “development” — usually underdevelopment — discourse. And it would not shock me if someone in my field gave Trump this precise language, when they “briefed” him on these countries. Let’s be honest, Trump did not think of the word “shithole” by himself. (Hollywood soldier blockbusters within black and brown regions, also refer to these countries as such)
We have a serious problem, especially in the mainstream, at being reactive to things that should outrage us in the wrong way. Right now, we should be outraged, but I have yet to see anything analyzing the ways in which we talk about the development vs. underdevelopment of specific countries. We should be talking about extractive economies and why, Donald Trump, could say what he said and in his apology, still say that Haiti is “poor” and a “disaster.” Our discourse on development and underdevelopment should outrage everyone. These discourses, least we forget, are inherently racist. Continuously paint black and brown countries as destitute and hopeless— in need of help. Continuously paint black and brown people within these countries as uneducated, lacking skills, and entitled to help. Continuously paint these countries and the people within them as unwanted and undesirable. It’s sad, but I could go on, forever…
This discourse, is what allowed a journal like Third World Quarterly to publish “The Case for Colonialism.” Because apparently, black and brown people cannot rule themselves. Not according to our disciplines or anyone else in the West (that is not black or brown themselves). This discourse, is what allowed Trump to (allegedly) refer to these countries as “shithole” places. Because again, without ‘help’ they are ungovernable, destitute, and hopeless.
What pisses me off the most, is that if Trump simply said things like what other countries in Europe/The West do say (e.g. “[We] Must Ban Immigrants”) everyone would be fine with that. After all, it would be in line with “regular Trump rhetoric” and we would be getting think pieces on how “we’re all immigrants.” Thus, we would see people willingly choosing to downplay the fact, that when Western countries say that they would like to “ban immigrants” and “ban immigration” in the present day, they’re talking about black and brown people. #SorryNotSorry Sally & Harrison—they’re not talking about your great-grand relatives that migrated here hundreds of years ago on a boat from a European country in search of a better life.
They’re talking about people leaving or fleeing their countries, ironically due to their (Western) extractive practices in these black and brown migrant countries. They’re talking about people leaving and fleeing their countries due to their (Western) military activities that upset governments and populations. They’re talking about people in search of a better life, largely tied to our exploitative global system where black and brown bodies are at the bottom of the social and capital hierarchy—thus largely disposable.
Trump and what he says is merely a mouth piece for a system that has been put in place for centuries. Current feigned outrage is because he said what he said uncoded. After all, we all already knew he was racist. THAT IS WHY HE WAS ELECTED.
What we need to be doing is talk about how we view majority black and brown countries. And I am just letting you know right now, that it is not nice. If we continue the narrative that these places are destitute, impoverished, and ungovernable—we are saying that those people are not wanted or welcomed. These narratives are in contrast to the enlightened and richer Europeans who automatically migrate with knowledge. These narratives exists side by side in our psyche in terms of how we view different immigrants from different places.
In the U.S. those in poverty are already frowned down upon— “it is their fault.” We do the same to immigrants from majority black and brown countries. This is why in 2018, people are still shocked that not all Africans live in huts.