I am the daughter of two immigrants who moved our family to the United States for a better life and richer opportunities.
I am an immigrant.
I am a former White House aide.
I am Haitian-American.
And on Thursday, President Trump called my homeland a "shithole."
In a bipartisan meeting concerning changes in immigration policy, President Trump asked why America would want immigrants from “all these shithole countries,” specifically referencing Haiti and African countries. He then suggested that United States immigration policy focus instead on bringing in immigrants from countries like Norway.
A quick reminder: Haiti is 95 percent black, and Norway is over 90 percent white.
Trump entered the business world as a racist, he entered the 2016 election as a racist, and he entered the White House as a racist.
Some might call Trump’s comments racially coded, or “racially tinged,” as I heard them called yesterday, but the truth is that these statements are overt, transparent, undisguised, unbridled racism. (Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who was in the room, said as much on Friday morning.)
And they’re not just comments: they’re the basis for Trump’s mass deportation policy.
That racism underlies this administration's thinking on immigration is thoroughly unsurprising. Donald Trump’s legacy is not simply speckled with incidents of racism; it itself is racist. Donald Trump entered the business world as a racist, he entered the 2016 election as a racist, and he entered the White House as a racist.
In 1973, Trump and his father were sued by the Department of Justice for discrimination on the basis of race in one of their housing ventures. (They signed a consent decree settling the suit in 1974, admitting no wrongdoing but agreeing to institute safeguards to prevent future discrimination.)
Just as Trump’s racism is intrinsic to who he is as a person, it too is embedded in his policy choices.
In 1989, five black and Latino teenage boys were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman jogging in Central Park in a case that relied heavily — perhaps exclusively — on racist stereotypes of black men sexually assaulting white women. The case came to be known as the Central Park Five. Leading the calls for these children’s execution was Donald Trump, who had no connection to the case — other than that he was racist, and this was an opportunity to show it. Even after the Central Park Five were exonerated by DNA evidence and the confession of the actual perpetrator, Trump refused to apologize.
In 2016 as the Republican nominee for President, Donald Trump called Mexican immigrants "rapists," again relying on tired tropes about black and brown men sexually assaulting white women; he admitted in an unrelated legal case that he'd planned to make that remark in particular. He questioned the competence of a Mexican American judge, Gonzalo Curiel, solely on the basis of his ethnic heritage. And he called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” (and suggested that a Muslim judge could not rule properly in that case).
And, since winning the presidency — to pick just one example— his response to a white supremacist rally that culminated in the murder of a peaceful protester was to tell Americans that "there are two sides to a story." He’s right, in a way: One side was racist, the other was not. It doesn’t take much imagination to guess to which side Trump was more sympathetic.
While Republicans in Congress feign outrage over Trump’s latest astounding racist comment, they continue to step in line to help propel his racist policies.
Given all this, it’s not surprising Donald Trump called Haiti — a country whose independence and freedom was borne out of the first successful slave-led revolution — a "shithole."
It’s also not surprising he said so in the context of immigration policy discussions. Because just as Trump’s racism is intrinsic to who he is as a person, it too is embedded in his policy choices, from his attempts to implement a somewhat limited version of the Muslim ban he promised to his insistence on building a wall on the border with Mexico as part of any immigration reform.
Donald Trump’s racist biases seemingly led him to end Temporary Protected Status for and order the mass deportation of 200,000 Salvadorans who came here after a pair of major earthquakes, as well as 59,000 Haitians who arrived after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Trump’s racism is what underlies and governs his support of tying immigration quotas to "historical norms," widely seen as a way to limit immigration from non-European countries, which is a policy we as a nation have already long ago understood to be racist and discarded, and to end family reunification policies (which Republicans have rebranded "chain migration") which allows families to build new lives in America together.
The only thing that differentiates Trump from many of his Republican allies is that he is willing to name the source of his motivations aloud, and often in public.
And Trump's racist sentiments seem to be behind his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which granted temporary protection from deportation to undocumented youth who were brought to this country as undocumented children, had no criminal records and met other strenuous requirements.
While Republicans in Congress feign outrage over Trump’s latest astounding racist comment, they continue to step in line to help propel his racist policies. And not surprisingly: these policies, such as overthrowing DACA, ending TPS and attempts to limit the number of immigrants arriving from non-European countries, are ones many Republicans in Congress have supported for years.
The only thing that differentiates Trump from many of his Republican allies is that he is willing to name the source of his motivations aloud, and often in public, whereas many Republicans in Congress would rather pander to the white supremacist anti-immigrant movement while pretending that’s not what their policy positions are about.
Every person who stays silent on Donald Trump’s racism, regardless of their own race or party, is betraying not just America’s communities of color, but the very ideals on which this country was founded.
Today, we find ourselves in a moment of reckoning. “There comes a time,” Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “where silence is betrayal.” We are in that time.
Every person who stays silent on Donald Trump’s racism, regardless of their own race or party, is betraying not just America’s communities of color, but the very ideals on which this country was founded. We were founded on the idea that all people are created equal, and while that notion of who counts as a person — who deserves equality — has evolved over time, the point remains: America was founded as bastion of freedom, and equality. That is the America I know. That is the America of which my Haitian parents wanted to be a part. That is the America for which we must all speak up.
And a good way to start is for all of us to make it clear to members of Congress that we want them to reject Trump’s racism and all the policies that stem from it, to pass a clean DREAM Act now (rather than catering to his racism and agreeing to restrictions on other immigrants to get protection for DREAMers) and to protect from deportation those who had been covered by the TPS program that Trump is determined to end.
Karine Jean-Pierre is an Haitian political campaign organizer, activist, political commentator and lecturer in international and public affairs at Columbia University. She is the Senior Advisor and National Spokeswoman for MoveOn.org.