The ugliest profanity President Trump uttered about immigrants and their countries of origin may not be the single word we’ve heard and read over and over these past couple of days. It’s when the president reportedly asked the bipartisan group of legislators at the White House, “Why do we want all these people here?” – an apparent reference to people from Africa especially – then added: “We should have more people from Norway.”
The profanity is that the president of the United States said, quite plainly, that he believes the United States should have an immigration policy that encourages more whites than black or Hispanic immigrants. The word for that is racism – a real profanity. And it profanes a United States that was build by the sweat, muscle and blood of immigrants of all races.
Many – millions – came from places that were then derided as poor, savage and uncivilized: the holes of humanity of their time. Immigrants came from dirt poor farms in Ireland; the destitute villages of Sicily; the shtetls and ghettos of Russia, Poland and Germany; the parched fields of Mexico and the Caribbean; the hutongs of China; and the bustees of India. And of course, millions of Africans came because they were brutally torn from their families and homes and sold into slavery.
Few of the immigrants who built this country came to America with wealth, titles or even sure prospects for a better future. They had strong hearts and willing hands. Many had to contend with racism after they arrived here, but the children that were born to them here would have the same rights as any family that came over on the Mayflower.
Immigrants from so many impoverished and deadly places made America rich in all ways. They built America’s great cities and industries, factories and schools. They made the American dream come alive in the world. As Margaret Thatcher observed from across the ocean, “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.” The immigrants who arrive today from Haiti, El Salvador, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana and a hundred other places keep that dream going with their own lives.
The president’s choice of language demands attention and has been denounced around the world, including by members of his own political party. But remove that one ugly, sensational word from his remarks, and what remains might be no less profane. When you slur and insult people from countries who have helped make America, America is smeared, too.