The Truth About Africa and Haiti

What a shit-storm over a question that deserves to be explored.

Why should the United States take in immigrants from “shit-hole countries” like Africa and Haiti rather than from places like Norway?

It’s hard to know what’s worse – that President Donald Trump was so indiscriminate in front of people he should’ve known would use his bluntness for their own purposes; or, the media’s repeated amplification of his comment while acting shocked and outraged that he made it.

Nobody can create a shit-storm like the American news media.

Even after the story was two days old, there were media reports warning readers and listeners of the “especially crude word” contained in the story that followed.

Had somebody in Hawaii not accidentally clicked the wrong button and issued a false alarm on a missile strike, The New York Times, et al would still be in a dither about Trump’s use of the word “shit-hole,” still analyzing what they have clearly decided is evidence of his deep racism.

None of us can read one another’s minds. We are all capable of lying about what we really think.

I’m currently reading “What Happened” by Hillary Clinton. Only she knows the thoughts she doesn’t reveal. Who knows the words that were exchanged in the privacy of the Clinton home in Chappaqua, N.Y., in the days after she was dealt a defeat she didn’t expect. (She and her husband bought the house next door and started renovations to create a Clinton compound for the extensive traveling staff that accompanies a U.S. president.)

Here’s a scenario that I think should have happened:

“You know, Bill, if the foundation had taken all that money we spent on West Africa and Haiti – what shit-holes! – and invested it helping folks in Michigan and Ohio, I might be president.”

As detailed in “What Happened,” the Clinton Global Initiative sent 500 tons of medical supplies to West Africa to fight the Ebola epidemic and $500 million to Haiti to be used for small businesses, farms, schools and health care. Certainly those are generous humanitarian acts. But let’s “unpack it” as the media like to say.

Just four years ago, The Washington Post reported, “The country where you are most likely to be enslaved is Mauritania. Although this vast West African nation has tried three times to outlaw slavery within its borders, it remains so common that it is nearly normal.”

The Post also noted in the same story: “The rate of slavery is also alarmingly high in Haiti, in Pakistan and in India, the world’s second-most populous country.”

West Africa and Haiti are, indeed, shit-hole countries. But because they are home to a mostly black citizenry run by black leaders, excuses are made. More outrage has been visited upon Trump’s comment than on the political and cultural practices in these countries that make them shit-holes.

A world map accompanying the Post story reveals that the lowest rates of slavery are in rich, developed countries like America:

“(E)ffective government policies, rule of law, political stability and development levels all make slavery less likely. … When society treats women, ethnic groups or religious minorities as less valuable or less worthy of protection, they are more likely to become slaves.”

America is not the world’s Great Discriminator.

Yet there are organizations in America (and one political party, in particular) that have made a fetish of racism. Whether intentional or not, they are nurturing the kind of tribalism found in shit-hole countries.

The New York Times will condemn Trump’s quote as “the latest example of his penchant for racially tinged remarks denigrating immigrants,” while ignoring the media’s own penchant for drawing race into every issue.

Trump’s preference for Norwegians immediately assumed it was because they are predominantly white.

Well, some black Americans have found Norway to be a welcome change from America.

“Is Norway a racism-free Utopia?” asked a story in The Root.

It appears that being surrounded by educated white people in a low-crime country that does not have a criminal black underclass is a nice change of pace.

Said one black American who relocated: “In Norway it’s like I’m American first and black second.”

Norway also came in for high praise last Friday in a legislative hearing room at the state Capitol in Salem, Ore. While the media still fumed over Trump’s shocking word, about 50 people gathered to hear a report on prisons in Norway.

A group of Oregon politicians and state employees traveled last year to Norway to see what they could learn about the Norway penal experience.

At the heart of Norwegian Prison Concepts is the belief that life in prison must resemble life outside of prison – except for the lack of freedom.

“Each person in custody was assigned a personal contact officer,” said Colette Peters, director of Oregon’s Department of Corrections. She seemed loath to use the words “prisoner” or “inmate.” At one point, she referred to them as “criminal justice-involved individuals.”

Whatever they’re called, there’s a one-to-one ratio between them and the staff. Photos of one Norway maximum-security prison looked like a college campus.

“The amount of nature contained within the prison walls was amazing,” Peters said. “Every cell had a huge window that looked out on a monastic yard.”

The commissary of another prison, where the occupants cook as a group or team, looked like a neighborhood grocery store.

The open prison is considered the crown jewel of Norway’s corrections system. The people in custody live in small houses.

The superintendent of each prison is called “governor.”

Peters told the Judiciary Committee that in Oregon the corrections staff is trained at the old state hospital where “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was filmed. By comparison, Norway’s corrections staff spends two years in training at a university-like facility.

“There’s a proposal to expand to a four-year program…,” Peters said. “Correctional officer is one of the most highly sought-after government jobs in Norway. They are required to retire at 55.”

Heard enough? Now for some reality.

Mike Schmidt, director of the Criminal Justice Commission, acknowledged that there are big differences between Oregon and Norway. While they are similar in size, Oregon has about 14,600 in prison. Norway has 400.

“They spend three times more than we do per inmate … but they have a quarter of the population,” Schmidt said.

Rep. Sherrie Sprenger (R-Salem) asked what kind of crimes people in Norway are locked up for.

“Drugs … they had a problem with immigrants bringing drugs into the country,” Schmidt replied.

Norway has an immigrant problem?

The Borgen Project, a Seattle nonprofit that calls itself a “humanitarian organization working to make global poverty a focus of U.S. foreign policy” reports that more than 27,000 refugees reside in Norway, who arrived from Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan.

The organization found that while one in 200 children of Norwegian parents live under the poverty line, four in 10 immigrant children live in poverty in Norway.

“Poverty is increasingly racialized in that children of immigrants are much more likely to grow up in poverty than children of white Norwegians born here,” said researcher Sindre Bangstad of the Frisch Institute in Oslo.

According to a story in BORGEN Magazine, “Norway recently passed a law banning street beggars, along with giving municipalities the power to begin making other regulations.”

With its oil reserves, Norway has built up a sovereign wealth fund of more than $800 billion dollars, which pays for the country’s welfare model.

“The current problem for social welfare programs fighting poverty in Norway may be difficult to resolve, but luckily the stockpile the country has accumulated can buy time for all its citizens to continue working towards a more sustainable future,” said the story in BORGEN Magazine.

Of course, Norway’s oil reserves will eventually decline. The country’s leaders probably don’t want more immigrants from shit-hole countries either but are too politic to say so. And the black Americans who have relocated to Norway don’t appear to be demanding that the country welcome more people “who look like them.”

It isn’t race that makes Trump prefer Norwegians. They simply don’t have the baggage of some other immigrants.

We can feel sorry for anyone who has to live in a shit-hole situation, wherever it is. That doesn’t mean we want them to drag it into our communities, our neighborhoods, our lives.

It’s self-preservation, not racism.

— Pamela Fitzsimmons

From the Archives:

“Media Trumped by Tribalism”

“Young Fascists Colonize Portland”

“Heathens in the Grotto”

“Obama’s America, Romney’s America”


  • Well written and on point.

  • AnonymousJD wrote:

    What a fantasy world Oregon lives in. Norway is one of the richest countries in the world. The state of Oregon is begging voters to approve a ballot measure to pay health care for some 350,000 people, including illegal immigrants. Oregon has no money to waste emulating Norway’s prisons.

    If the goal is to turn Oregon into a shithole, officials are headed in the right direction.

  • Trump’s lack of self-control with regards to his language is nothing new and frankly a selling point to those who already favor him. Whether or not Haiti and many African countries are indeed shit-holes shouldn’t be the central question; they are. Full stop.

    The problem I see is that when Trump asked why we don’t have Norwegians emigrating to the US he displayed a fundamental lack of understanding of what and who America is. America was founded by the misfits and malcontents of non-shithole countries and to our betterment continues to be augmented by the dreamers-of-a-better-life of actual shithole countries. (Be they Ireland, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Haiti, or Mauritania) The fact that our President cannot admire the courage it takes to leave what one knows for the chance at something better is damning enough to condemn him and those who ever supported him to the dung heap of US history.

  • Ireland’s a shit-hole country? Until I started working on this essay, I did not realize how wealthy Ireland had become.

    Seriously, though, I think Trump’s comment about why we don’t have Norwegians coming here shows he does not understand that America is not No. 1 to everyone. We have such an inflated opinion of ourselves. The media insist on referring to the president as “the most powerful man in the world.” You would think 9-11 would have taught us otherwise.

    Like you say, America was founded by misfits and malcontents from other countries. That is our history. Our present is something else. We don’t have the wide-open spaces and plentiful manufacturing jobs we once had to offer the huddled masses. We have Americans who can’t find family-wage jobs.

    You’re right about the courage it takes to find a better home. Two months ago, CNN reported on the sale of African immigrants as slaves in Libya. CNN detailed the torture and abuse these Africans face trying to reach Europe. I have yet to see US Sen. Cory Booker, or any other American politician, react in outrage towards the leaders of sub-Saharan Africa who are responsible for driving these people out. They’re too busy fuming about Trump’s shit-hole comment.

  • G. Sanchez wrote:

    It’s hard to believe correction officers being the best job in Norway. I got to wonder if that’s exaggeration. I got a relative in Calif. who works in a prison. He never says what he does for a living unless he’s asked and then he says “It’s got good bennies!” It’s hard work. He’s been assaulted.

    The outroar over the word shithole is almost funny. I’m sorry my grandfather isn’t here to tell you some stories. People come to America to get out of shitholes or find a better shithole.

  • “A better shithole.” Sadly, that’s true. Think of trying to survive in some of the more violent neighborhoods in a place like New York or Baltimore.

    Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha) would understand your relative who works in a prison. During the legislative hearing, Barker mentioned that he knows people who have family members working as correctional officers. Those family members are quick to add, “He’s got good benefits.”

    Barker posed the question, “What would you say if your son or daughter said they wanted to be a prison guard?”

  • Ireland now is not what Ireland was. Thus the joke from Blazing Saddles. My list of countries was meant to reflect the shifting origins of our unwanted immigrants. Annie Proulx wrote a great novel, Accordion Crimes, about US immigration that is more relevant today than when it was written over 20 years ago.

    All of that said, I strongly side with Teddy Roosevelt regarding assimilation of our immigrants. All four of my grandparents did not speak English until they went to school, and they all spoke English with German accents until the day they died despite none of them having ever been outside the US. The push for mixing bowl over melting pot is not a positive change.

  • I understand. It’s hard to shake history. When I was growing up, I associated Ireland with the potato famine, drunken men and battered women. No wonder Mel Brooks had some fun with the Irish.

    Last month I was going over my American Express statement, and I noticed a car rental charge from Ireland. I hadn’t been to Ireland. After a little more checking, I discovered that a car rental I made in L.A. was billed through a place in Ireland. Banking has made Ireland very wealthy.

    Great quote from Teddy Roosevelt. The immigrants coming to America today may not feel any need to assimilate like your grandparents.

  • Karin McQuillan makes some excellent observations in her “American Thinker” essay. Too bad the real issue of shit in the Third World — feces — hasn’t received more attention in the recent media overkill.

    The NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof would probably dismiss McQuillan’s story of the African woman allowing her child to defecate on the sidewalk next to Notre Dame Cathedral; he would see no difference to America’s homeless crapping in public.

    Several years ago, Kristof and his wife wrote a book about how oppressive the Third World treats girls and women. Yet last week he produced a column about all the wonderful things America could learn from “shithole countries.” (He really had to reach in some cases; apparently he thinks American mothers should be forced to breastfeed.)

    This line in the McQuillan’s essay stood out: “Everyone has nothing.”

    Now that’s equity.

  • I lived in a Bolivian village for a few month some years back. The public toilets, showers, and laundry facilities constructed with 1st World funding, planning, and guidance had long ceased to work.

    The feces collected in the wake of the failed (and very simple plumbing) had made the structure unusable and the surrounding real estate piled with small mountains of ordure.
    The location had been a success, the rest not so much.

    I’ve come across more than one frontier to be greeted by naked children squatting with diarrhea. In much of the Andes the long- skirted and very picturesque native women squat on the failing lawns of roadway divides. Wearing mini-bowler hats.

  • The closest I’ll probably ever get to Bolivia is the coffee I buy at Trader Joe’s. Thanks for the vivid postcard. The mini-bowler hats were the cherry on the sundae.

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