‘SHITHOLES’ AND GLOBAL PERCEPTION OF DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

by Gunnar Eigener

The term ‘shithole’ allegedly used by US President Donald Trump to describe Haiti and African countries drew widespread condemnation from a number of world leaders and US domestic politicians. Although no attempt was initially made to denounce the comment, it was only until a while later that the White House denied it happened. Since the source regarding the comment was the only US Democrat in the room with the President and others and those others can’t seem to remember whether or not it was said, we can’t be absolutely certain that it was made. However, the comment represents a bigger issue at hand: the blatant disregard that the current US administration has for developing countries.

The man behind the alleged remarks remains the problem. That a sitting US President may have said these words lends authority to them. They will be soaked up by his supporters who would use this viewpoint to justify their own opinions and the damage remains done. With virtually no Republicans publicly condemning this stance, the Republican base now has another line in the sand brushed away. The public perception risks viewing those of countries as sub-standard. The inhabitants of poorer countries tend to be non-Caucasian and so the public perception will be engineered towards the assumption that people who aren’t white are likely to be poor and therefore more likely to commit crime, have a lower standard of living, be less healthy and, ultimately, less likely to be able to contribute to society in a beneficial manner.

The public perception risks viewing those of countries as sub-standard.

When it comes to the issue of immigration, this perception becomes more emphasised, resulting in a more aggressive response from the public who are able to tar everybody with the same brush; in other words, if you’re foreign and not white, you can’t do anything for us. Caucasian foreigners get less attention than those of colour. Skin colour is visible and therefore easy to associate with a perception and assumption without having to interact. This can be seen in tabloid headlines, particularly when talking about ‘hordes’ of invading immigrants and reminding the public about ‘Asian’ gangs grooming young girls. In the Middle East, we hear of wealthy Arabs treating maids and servants from abroad with contempt. The working conditions for immigrants working on football stadiums in Qatar have been shocking.  In the world of the rich and the establishment, racism remains an institutional problem.

Nationalism not only seeks to define a person’s dedication to a set of core beliefs based on history and empire, but also seeks to exclude those who do not fulfil a criteria. Often, in the West, part of that criteria is skin colour and religion, divisive elements within humanity that have kept the world separate for centuries. Politicians and industry preach about globalisation yet base its benefits on not having to interact with people from the other side of the world in person. This shows a lack of humanity. Human interaction is a great part of what defines us as individuals. If we can’t see past the man-made constructs that are put up as cultural barriers, like religion and traditions, and for as long as the media point at and target groups that don’t look like what they imagine a valuable person to look like, then we still have a long way to go.

In the world of the rich and the establishment, racism remains an institutional problem.

But here is part of the problem: so many of us have no issue interacting with human beings, regardless of where they are from. Yet when voices like Donald Trump are given a forum and whose comments are allowed to carry as much weight and authority as they do, we perhaps give too much thought to those voices, we watch too much media that complains about it yet does so little about it. Removing ourselves from those forums and from that media is a good start. Then we won’t even know of the barriers that those who hate and don’t care try to put up between us.

Featured image via fundraiser

 


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