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: