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February 22, 2019

Trump’s racism not news, real shame is Africans who’d rather jail in Israel to home

The Immigrant - Mixed Media Statue by Otieno Gomba
The Immigrant - Mixed Media Statue by Otieno Gomba

By now the furore over the American President’s categorisation of Africa as a “shithole”, or, as my dictionary politely explains, “an extremely dirty, shabby or otherwise unpleasant place”, has died down, if it hasn’t actually been forgotten or replaced by some new outrage.

A day after the American President described African countries as “shithole countries”, he signed a proclamation to honour Dr Martin Luther King Jr, whom he quoted saying, “No matter what the colour of our skin, or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God.”  The people who were surprised by his words the day before, probably thought he was being sincere.

I have been at a loss to understand so many of my fellow Africans, who have been left in high dudgeon by the remarks attributed to the man Americans elected to the White House as their public face and voice.

Where were these people during his campaign for the presidency, when he made racist remarks about anyone not white and footage and audio of him saying despicable things about women was released? Where was their outrage then? Have they not worked out that Trump’s racism and sexism were what appealed to his supporters? Did they think that after he attained office he would let go of such a winning formula? Have they not been paying attention in the last year or so? Why did they think they would be treated differently by the man?

Expecting any change in behaviour from the funny-haired, orange man with the tiny hands and enormous nuclear button, is like believing Kenyan MPs will ever vote to halve their salaries, or indeed hoping that the next presidential election in Kenya will not be a tribal census.

My favourite reaction to the US President’s categorisation of Africa was that of the Botswana Foreign Ministry, who summoned the US ambassador, asking him to clarify if the remarks also applied to Botswana. How awkward was that for the envoy?

Away from the US but still on the matter of immigration, or, to be more precise, migration, the story that made me saddest on the same day as the American President’s typically racist remarks, was one that came out of Israel. In that story, ironically, thousands of African asylum seekers had been presented with a stark choice by the Israeli government: Take a lump sum of cash and return to your country of origin, or go to jail. Many of the people indicated to a reporter that jail was the only choice they were prepared to make.

This story made me reflect on how badly these Africans and others who would rather die at sea trying to get away view their respective countries. How do they view all the outrage by their fellow Africans over the American President’s derogatory remarks about Africa?

Perhaps what we need to do instead of worrying about a racist who will never change his ways, is to find a way to keep our people in Africa, even if not necessarily in the country they were born in. Maybe eventually, all Africans can be like the Norwegians, who aren’t likely to move to the US [or Israel for that matter], even if they are welcome.

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