Roxane Gay Responds To Trump’s “Shithole Countries” Comment With A Powerful Essay On Racism

by Gianna Folz



Last week, The Washington Post reported that, during a discussion about an immigration deal, Donald Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations as “shithole countries.” The comment was horrifying, but not surprising, considering Trump’s previous statements on immigration. During his 2106 presidential campaign, he referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals,” and in an interview with Yahoo News, he said that Syrian refugees could be “Isis-affiliated.” The day before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Trump told reporters that he is “the least racist person you have ever interviewed.” Oh, Donald, I would say you can’t be serious but this is actually the second time those words were uttered from your mouth.

One response that was prompted by the “shithole” comment came in the form of tweets. People have been tweeting their accomplishments and how they are from #shithole countries.

Screen Shot 2018 01 16 at 1.32.45 PM d0c10via Twitter/@AF_ROdisiac

 Other responses came from the countries Trump had insulted, writes the Hill. Botswana, a country in southern Africa, issued a statement calling Trump’s comments “reprehensible and racist.” The African Union, which consists of all 55 countries in Africa, said, “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice.” The African National Congress of South Africa called Trump’s comments “extremely offensive.”

Author Roxane Gay, who is the daughter of Haitian immigrants, responded to the “shithole” comment in a passionate essay for The New York Times, titled “No One Is Coming To Save Us From Trump’s Racism.” In the essay, Gay writes that Trump is not an outlier who only represents a few racist old men, but is actually a representation of the values of many Americans. “He didn’t reveal any new racism. He, once again, revealed racism that has been there all along,” she writes. “It is grotesque and we must endure it for another three or seven years, given that the Republicans have a stranglehold on power right now and are more invested in holding onto that power than working for the greater good of all Americans.”

Gay writes that she could remind the American people of Haiti’s value and encourage people to have hope in a better future, “as if rebellious enthusiasm is enough to overcome federally, electorally sanctioned white supremacy.”   But she won’t, she writes:


But I am not going to do any of that. I am tired of comfortable lies. I have lost patience with the shock supposedly well-meaning people express every time Mr. Trump says or does something terrible but well in character. I don’t have any hope to offer. I am not going to turn this into a teaching moment to justify the existence of millions of Haitian or African or El Salvadoran people because of the gleeful, unchecked racism of a world leader. I am not going to make people feel better about the gilded idea of America that becomes more and more compromised and impoverished with each passing day of the Trump presidency.

This is a painful, uncomfortable moment. Instead of trying to get past this moment, we should sit with it, wrap ourselves in the sorrow, distress and humiliation of it. We need to sit with the discomfort of the president of the United States referring to several countries as “shitholes” during a meeting, a meeting that continued after his comments. No one is coming to save us. Before we can figure out how to save ourselves from this travesty, we need to sit with that, too.


photo via

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