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For black Americans, Trump's 'shithole' comment was an insult to their histories

Matt Pearce and Jenny Jarvie, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

ATLANTA -- The president's question was this: "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"

Technically -- in its own crass way -- it was a policy question. Specifically, President Donald Trump was asking why the U.S. should accept immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations instead of immigrants from wealthy Norway, according to reports of the president's remarks to congressional lawmakers at a Thursday meeting.

Yet for many black Americans, the president's remarks, as so many times in the past, seemed to draw a bull's-eye on their skin color.

As they saw it, the president was essentially asking that government policy prioritize white foreigners over black and brown foreigners.

And beyond policy, for many black Americans, "shithole countries" was not just a diplomatic insult to several foreign nations. It was a deeply personal insult to the stories and histories of how their own parents and ancestors immigrated -- or were kidnapped and forcibly trafficked -- to the U.S.

"They just worked and worked and worked my whole life," Ike Ndolo, 34, of Phoenix said Friday, recalling what it was like to grow up in Columbia, Mo., as the son of two parents from Nigeria -- immigrants from one of Trump's "shithole countries."

 

Ndolo's father immigrated to the U.S. 36 years ago for college and earned a master's degree in engineering at the University of Missouri. His mother, while eight months pregnant, followed him to the U.S., where she would go on to work in day-care, caring for other Americans' children.

"Seeing my parents struggle, and seeing the comments yesterday ... I think I've been angry since last November, (but) this was especially outrageous," said Ndolo, a musician.

On Friday in Atlanta, an interfaith coalition of religious leaders took to the pulpit of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was baptized as a child, to condemn Trump's statements on the eve of the King holiday weekend.

The Rev. Timothy McDonald, pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in east Atlanta, wondered about people who heard Trump's remarks.

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