She further said that “African immigrants are generally far better educated than U.S. born Americans and other immigrants.”
Here’s the full transcript of the interview:
Balkans Post: What could you say about U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent remarks in which he described African nations as “shithole countries”?
Heather Gray: President Trump’s comments about Africa and Haiti being “shithole” countries openly revealed his racist sentiments that are frequently expressed by him either inadvertently or deliberately. While many previous presidents likely had similar sentiments, still, rarely have presidents been as callous as Trump. And further, regarding Africa and Haiti, Trump has a habit of blaming victims of U.S. policies yet he seemingly knows no history in the first place.
There are a number of considerations to delineate regarding his comments.
For one, Trump clearly does not have a clue about Africa nor of the qualifications of Africans immigrating to the United States. Probably, he doesn’t care one way or the other. Nevertheless, African immigrants are generally far better educated than U.S. born Americans and other immigrants as well. For example, of the 1.4 million Africans over the age of 25 coming to the U.S. since 2010, 41% have bachelor degrees, compared to 30% of all other immigrants, 32% of the U.S. born population and 38% of the 19,000 immigrants from Norway. (LA Times)
African immigrants are also more likely to have graduate degrees. Of the 1.4 million since 1980, 16% had “a masters degree, medical degree, law degree or a doctorate, compared with 11% of the U.S. born population.” (LA Times)
Also, of all the continents in the world, Africa is by far the wealthiest in terms of natural resources. “Its mineral deposits make it one of the richest natural-resource-laden places on Earth and everyone wants some.” (Eritrea-chat) And because of this, Africans have been victimized and hugely exploited by Europeans historically.
Secondly, and most importantly, Trump is either masquerading with his racist sentiments about Haiti’s history or he doesn’t know and/or doesn’t care about the egregious historic and contemporary oppressive behavior by the U.S. toward Haiti.
In fact, since the African slaves in Haiti successfully revolted against the French in 1804, the Americans have resented the Haitian African slave victory. The 1804 revolution also threatened the slaveholders in the American South who were concerned that the Haitian successful revolution would inspire slaves in America – which it did.
Then, in 1825, the French King Charles offered recognition to Haiti if the Haitians would pay “150 million gold francs - billions of dollars in today’s money” otherwise France would invade, so the Haitians agreed to the compromise which ultimately led to huge debts for Haiti (some loans from entities in the U.S.) and Haitian destabilization. By 1914, the U.S. invaded Haiti and removed all the gold in Haiti’s national reserve and began to rule Haiti for 19 years using the oppressive white supremacist American Jim Crow policies. Yet the Haitians managed to organize and kick out the Americans by 1934. But all of this set the path for an extremely difficult 20th century for the Haitians with on-going ruthless interference by the United States. (Washington Post)
And thirdly and importantly, as Amy Wilentz of The Nation writes, America would be a shithole country were it not for Haiti. Because of the successful Haitian slave revolution in 1804, France’s Napoleon wanted to get out of the America’s altogether. As a result, Napoleon sold to America’s President Thomas Jefferson, 828,000 square miles of French property from the Canadian border down to New Orleans. “Jefferson got it at a bargain-basement price: $250 million, in current dollars, doubling the size of the country for less than 3 cents per acre.” (The Nation) It was thanks to Haiti that America, then, became the continental country it is today.
In America, there is invariably the demand for reparations by the Black community due to the harmful legacy of slavery and reparations for Haitians should be demanded as well from the American government. Trump’s recent comment accentuates this abuse.
“The U.S. has worked to break Haiti for over 200 years. We owe Haiti. Not charity. We owe Haiti as a matter of justice. Reparations. And not the $100 million promised by President Obama either — that is Powerball money. The U.S. owes Haiti Billions — with a big B.
The U.S. has worked for centuries to break Haiti. The U.S. has used Haiti like a plantation. The U.S. helped bleed the country economically since it freed itself, repeatedly invaded the country militarily, supported dictators who abused the people, used the country as a dumping ground for our own economic advantage, ruined their roads and agriculture, and toppled popularly elected officials. The U.S. has even used Haiti like the old plantation owner and slipped over there repeatedly for sexual recreation.” (Huffington Post)
Balkans Post: The incendiary comments caused a backlash within Africa, with African Union countries demanding that Donald Trump “retract and apologize”. What’s your take on this?
Heather Gray: Trump’s insulting comment regarding Africa is unprecedented for a world leader.
Yes, he should retract and apologize, but that is not likely to happen. We are learning from his behavior as president, but also from the book “Art of the Deal” by Donald Trump and Tony Schwartz in 1987, that for Trump it’s attention that is of foremost importance to him. And it seemingly doesn’t matter to him whether it is for derogatory reasons or not. Attention, regardless, is what’s important to Trump.
The reaction of the world to Trump’s comment has largely been one of condemnation and for African countries the resentment from his statement continues to build. If anything, this will likely lead to Africans aligning more closely with the Chinese, which for years the U.S. has been attempting to challenge.
Balkans Post: How has the long history of U.S. intervention in Africa affected African countries?
Heather Gray: North and South America’s first major connection with Africa was through the slave trade from the 16th to the 19th century. While the estimates range, there were approximately 12.5 million slaves transported to the Americas – most of them to South America – and estimates of 2 million dying on the voyage.
What is rarely discussed, also, is the impact the slave trade had on African countries to the present day – particularly in West Africa. "During slavery many of the able-bodied people, between 18 and 40, were taken out so society's ability to reproduce itself economically, socially and culturally was impaired," says Zagba Oyortey, a Ghanaian cultural historian. (BBC)
Compared to European countries that, since 1884, had been colonizing Africa, the United States involvement in Africa began to intensify after World War II and at the end of the Cold War in 1991.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that the U.S. secret service was occasionally engaged in the African continent to serving colonial and potential American interests by acting against revolutionaries. For example, it is now revealed that the CIA was involved in the killing of the Belgian Congo’s Patrice Lumumba in 1961. Lumumba is often appropriately referred to as the great son of Africa as well as one of Congo’s renowned independence leaders.
It is also noted that the CIA was engaged in providing information to the South African authorities regarding the whereabouts of Nelson Mandela when he was arrested in 1962. Mandela was then tried and given a life imprisonment sentence on South Africa’s Robben Island off Cape Town. In the 1980s, the U.S. also supported South Africa in its efforts to undermine the freedom movements in many southern African countries.
Today, the U.S. is increasingly playing more of an intensive military role in Africa. Under President George W. Bush’s administration, Africom was authorized by Bush, and then in 2007 it was announced that Africom was to be part of the U.S. armed forces divisions. Africom has military relations in 53 African countries and plays a military role in regional conflicts. Today, it is estimated there are 46 U.S. military bases on the African continent. During his administration, President Barack Obama also expanded the role and power of Africom.
It is also thought that one of the primary reasons for the development of Africom is because of the vast increase of China’s involvement and investment in Africa. For example, the Financial Times reports that in 2000, Chinese investment was $20 billion and by 2014 it increased to $220 billion.
In the context of the capitalist west as well as Chinese interests in Africa, knowing about the resources available in Africa is essential. Invariably, it is important to follow the money and/or potential financial gain. In fact, regarding this, virtually all industrialized countries in the world have an interest in Africa as it is the wealthiest continent in the world in terms of natural resources. Here is a list:
African countries with oil resources (Africa facts):
- ‘World capital of oil pollution’ Niger Delta; Angola; Algeria; Egypt; Libya; Equatorial Guinea; Sudan & South Sudan; Congo; Gabon; South Africa (Africa facts)
- African countries with other resources (African Leadership)
- Botswana – Diamonds
- Democratic Republic of Congo – Diamonds, Copper
- South Africa – Diamonds, Gold, Aluminum, Copper, Platinum, Coal
- Tanzania – Gold
- Namibia – Uranium
- Mozambique – Aluminum
- Zambia – Copper
- Guinea – Bauxite (for aluminum)
- Niger – Uranium
- Ghana – Gold
It is also important to note that, in August 2014, President Barrack Obama held an historic meeting with African heads of state.
It’s an historic week in the nation’s capital as President Obama hosts the largest gathering of African heads of state and governments ever assembled by a U.S. President. The three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit will welcome 51 African leaders to Washington, D.C. and focus on sustainable development, trade, collaboration, investment, and America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people. (White House)
So while Obama’s gathering of African leaders with corporate America might have resulted in further corporate investment, as well as opportunities for corporations to exploit Africa of its relished resources, still, Obama advanced opportunities for the Trump administration to implement its militaristic tendencies.
Here’s from Foreign Policy:
The latest reporting suggests that, rather than restraining and limiting Trump, the Obama administration, in its final weeks in office, is further expanding the geographic scope of airstrikes, the nature of combatants who can be targeted, and the legal justification underpinning such strikes. The incoming president-elect, who has previously pledged to “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” will have the capabilities and authorities to do just that — for the Islamic State and other terrorist and militant armies. (Foreign Policy)
Nevertheless, in spite of this rather sad history above, in the past few decades, prior to the Trump administration, the U.S. has also been engaged in humanitarian activities on the African continent. This includes programs such as AIDS Relief that has saved millions of lives on the continent; the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to assist in economic development; the Millennium Challenge Corporation to assist in advancements in governance, democracy and human rights. Also, “Power Africa, the brainchild of President Obama, has been hailed as a visionary initiative to address the electricity gap on the continent through public-private partnerships. The U.S. became the first non-African country to establish a diplomatic mission dedicated to engaging with the African Union in 2007.” (Foreign Policy)
Balkans Post: What changes have been made in the U.S. foreign policy toward Africa since Trump became president?
Heather Gray: Trump plans on massively cutting the U.S. support for programs on the African continent. It is suggested his cutting of these budgets could result in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since WWII. His ending much of the budget for HIV Aids could result in the loss of millions of lives. It is also likely that the Pentagon will continue to use and increase intrusive activities of Africom throughout the African continent.
Heather Gray is a writer and radio producer on WRFG-FM in Atlanta, Georgia and has also lived in Canada, Australia, Singapore, briefly in the Philippines and has traveled in southern Africa. For 24 years she has worked in support of Black farmer issues and in cooperative economic development in the rural South. She holds degrees in anthropology and sociology.