I’ve always enjoyed returning to Africa. From the coasts of Kenya to the vibrant cultural-life of Johannesburg South Africa or my visits back to verdant Nigeria, the continent is a source of great pride and solace.
If only I had known I was visiting shitholes.
On Thursday, the President of the United States of America Donald Trump in rejection of a bipartisan deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from being deported, asked the question, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” in reference specifically to immigrants from Haiti and Africa. This comes from somebody who thinks “Nambia” is an African nation.
The President’s remarks established a new low for the country’s highest office. He later attempted to retract his statements by suggesting that he never made them but admitting that his remarks were rather “tough.” His words were not just tough, they were deplorable, divisive and most importantly they were racist!
The cornerstone of racism towards people of color is the belief in white superiority. By suggesting that the United States bring more people from countries such as Norway—as Trump did in the same meeting—and closing the door to immigrants from African nations he is saying that Norwegians are somehow superior to people from African nations.
While the reasoning for his statements seem baseless from the onset, let’s look at the numbers anyway. We need to fight back with facts!
African immigrants are some of the fastest-growing immigrant populations in the US, according to a Pew Research Center study. As of 2015, there were nearly 2.1 million people living in the U.S. born in Africa which is up from 880,000 in 2000 and only 80,000 in 1970. Despite the increases, African immigrants still make up a relatively low percentage of the total immigrant population.
A close examination of the numbers proves that Africans are in fact not “shitty” contributors to American society. The Pew Research Center has conducted a number of studies on African immigrants and the results are pretty interesting.
When compared to the total immigrant population in the US, sub-Saharan Africans were much more likely to be employed in management, business, science, and arts occupations (38 percent) and much less likely to be employed in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (3 percent).
The higher level of employment of Africans as skilled labor have all to do with our level of education when we arrive in this country. Sub-Saharan immigrants have much higher educational attainment compared to the overall foreign and native-born populations. As of 2013, 38 percent of sub-Saharan African immigrants had a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 28 percent of all U.S. immigrants and 30 percent of the U.S.-born population.
A Pew Research study also showed nearly 75 percent of black immigrants are proficient English speakers. African immigrants are also more proficient in English than the overall U.S. immigrant population.
Sub-Saharan Africans participated in the labor force at a higher rate than the overall immigrant and U.S.-born populations. In 2015, about 75 percent of sub-Saharan immigrants (ages 16 and over) were in the civilian labor force, compared to 66 percent and 62 percent of the overall foreign- and native-born populations, respectively.
Over 80 percent of black immigrants live in a family household, comparatively about 60 percent of all Americans. Among all US immigrants, 64 percent lived in a married couple household.
So let’s get this straight, African immigrants are well educated, speak English, are typically employed and live in family units, and are more likely to pledge their allegiance to America yet somehow we are the product of “shithole” countries. “Shitholes” that just happen to produce stellar citizenry.
The Global Impact
The words of President Trump aren’t inconsequential to be dismissed as harmless banter or Trump just being Trump. These words promote Xenophobia which leads to the continued mistreatment of Africans not just in the US but around the world. They have impact on how policies are shaped.
Africans both in the US and abroad have long been mischaracterized and stereotyped by media resulting in African immigrants facing continued discrimination across the globe. In 2013 it came out that approximately 130,000 Ethiopian women immigrating to Israel were forcibly sterilized with injectable contraception.
African immigrants group in France are frequently treated to random ID checks and searches by the police, some of these checks result in African immigrants being taken in custody, often with fatal consequences.
African students in India have been repeatedly beaten and killed and these attacks show no sign of decreasing.
Notions like those expressed by the President continue to embolden groups that are determined to express their hatred and disdain for Africans with violence.
It is also noteworthy to highlight the fact that black people from “shithole” nations have contributed well over 300 years of free labor to the United States, building The White House, railroads, Wall Street and more, while contributing to the economic prosperity of America by working those cotton and sugar fields.
In his role as president, Donald Trump has managed to find ever-increasing ways to promote hatred and racism. The result is a disaster for everyone.