Donald Trump is not the first head of state to favour Norway over Haiti

And if he'd taken the time to explore and understand the history of migration to the US, he'd know that throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the United States welcomed hundreds of thousands of Scandinavian migrants

Mike Stuchbery
Friday 12 January 2018 18:14 GMT
Donald Trump has described Haiti as a 'sh*thole' country
Donald Trump has described Haiti as a 'sh*thole' country (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

It almost seems pointless these days to respond to the inflammatory remarks of the US President – no sooner has he maligned one target before he’s moved, scattershot, to the next.

It does seem, however, that Donald Trump‘s recent remarks on immigration, referring to some countries as “sh*tholes”, represent a certain nadir of his Presidency. They show both a profound lack of understanding of modern history and the forces that underpin mass migration. Therefore, it is worth pausing for a moment to reflect on what exactly he’s spluttering about.

Trump has apparently singled out Haiti as a “sh*thole” and decried the number of migrants that originate from there. On a very base level, one can almost understand his thought process – Haiti is a nation that has endured some terrible challenges in recent history, why (supposedly) import the troubles they face?

It is the second part of his remarks that beggar belief. He wonders why the US doesn’t accept more migrants from places like Norway.

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If he’d taken the time to explore and understand the history of migration to the US, he’d know that throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the United States welcomed hundreds of thousands of Scandinavian migrants. More importantly, they made the journey across the Atlantic because, well, their home countries were “sh*tholes”.

Entire villages through Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland emptied en-masse for the US at various points in the 19th century. Ship’s registers and census data easily prove this. They were fleeing hunger (caused by repeated crop failures), overpopulation, disease and a growing inequality gap that was killing many.

Once there, the new arrivals took advantage of legislation such as the Homestead Act to acquire cheap land. Others laboured in mines or forestries to produce the raw materials that built the United States we know today.

These were roles that the United States could not, or did not want to fill – cheap labour to take the brunt of the challenges faced.

While we live in a rapidly post-industrial age, migrants from struggling nations such as Haiti now fill much the same role as their 19th century Scandinavian counterparts – they take the jobs that the locals overlook. They drive Ubers, they deliver food, they work as nannies, they serve in the armed forces – all the while dreaming of making it as many Scandinavian migrants did. They are the very backbone of the service economy.

Tragically for Americans, Trump’s view on these arrivals is a modern reflection of those who decried those arriving at Ellis Island in the early years of the 20th century. Instead of seeing the opportunity they represent, his dark nativist beliefs see only their homeland’s problems and shadows of the “racial science” once peddled by eugenicists. There can be no doubt that his racism poisons the debate.

It has often been stated in profiles and other writings on the man, that Trump’s beliefs mirror the pseudo-scientific racial hierarchies of “scientific racism” peddled by figures such as Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau over the last 150 years.

These theories – now totally debunked by decades of genetic research – place northern Europeans at the apex of the hierarchy as a “master race”, while all those under it are seen to suffer increasing physical and mental efficiencies, with indigenous Africans and Australians at the bottom.

This racial hierarchy also formed one of the key pillars of Nazism, with northern Europeans forming the superior “Aryan” race that had once ruled the world.

It is widely reported that Trump allegedly used to keep a book of Hitler’s speeches on his bedside table, as reported in a 1990 interview with Trump’s ex-wife, Ivana.

It is very conceivable that Trump has fully assimilated these beliefs into his worldview and even worse, continues to swallow the lies perpetrated by de Gobineau’s ideological descendants, such as Richard Lynn and J Philippe Rushton, luminaries of the Alt-Right, who believe that Africans and Native peoples have a tendency towards criminality and violence.

That the so-called “leader of the free world” could hold such beliefs is not only troubling, but terrifying.

Amusingly, in singling Norway out as a preferred source of migrants, Trump seems ignorant of the great truth that underpins all migration – you head where the security and opportunities lie.

On the WHO rankings of the world’s best healthcare systems, Norway ranks 12 – the US ranks 37. As of 2016, Norway is first on the UN’s Human Development Index – the US is at number ten. If Trump believes that Norwegians are going to want to take a hit to their standard of living, he’s more delusional than we thought.

The United States, it is often said, is a nation of migrants. New arrivals seeking a better life are the source of much of its energy, vitality and innovation. Without them, stagnation and a fall in living standards is almost certain over time. Let us hope that the confused and malicious rantings of the President do not lead to it becoming yet another “sh*thole” from which people seek a better life.

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