Saturday, February 22, 2020
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Trump denies vulgar comment, says he’s no racist

President Donald Trump, after being accused of referring to Haiti and countries in Africa as “shithole” countries and suggesting the US should seek more immigrants from countries like Norway, has denied making the remark and asserted, moreover, that he is not a racist, the New York Times reports.

McConnell, Trump, and Ryan caricatures (DonkeyHotey via Flickr Creative Commons)

I have been scoring students’ writing, including the writing of very young students, for about two decades—I’ve scored their writing on statewide standardized tests, some of which carried high stakes, in Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, and Maryland. If Mr Trump did make the remark that was attributed to him by anonymous sources, it would indicate a low understanding of several important subjects for which presidents should be held accountable:

  • the world’s diversity
  • reasons why people leave their homeland
  • the history of national boundaries in Africa
  • poverty and its effects in Haiti

I could go on, of course, but those are the ones I can think of in about a minute, and I shouldn’t even have to be writing about this in the first place. Besides, other on-the-record remarks earlier in his presidency belie his racist tendencies.

But it also gives me a chance to talk about immigration a little: Masses of people don’t leave their country unless they honestly believe they’ll have a better life in the new place. Abandoning one’s homeland is fraught with peril, risk, and hardship; why would enough people to influence immigration numbers leave Norway to emigrate to the US? It doesn’t even make logical sense.

The period of Reconstruction in the US, which began right after the Civil War ended and ended some 10 or 15 years later, is largely overlooked in our history classes, especially at the high school and middle school level, the Washington Post reports.

Depending on the exact dates, which are a little fuzzy since “Reconstruction” had many diverse events, it was about 150 years ago that this movement swung the former slave states dramatically. But Reconstruction itself—giving blacks rights they were previously denied, seeing many blacks get elected to public office in the South, and so on—wasn’t as influential on our nation’s history as the events that occurred shortly after the Reconstruction period ended, when the federal government withdrew troops from the southern states.

Mr Trump’s rescinding of DACA strikes me as being very similar to the feds pulling troops out of the South right after Reconstruction. It has led to popular uprisings, both for and against immigrants, just as this nation saw during and right after Reconstruction. The objects of the protesting were different, of course, but the themes were the same: white people whose families were born here belong in the US, and black and brown people, especially those from “certain” countries or who profess a “certain” religious belief, don’t.

Since Mr Trump was educated in the US, we can assume his teachers’ instruction in Reconstruction was no better then than instruction is now, in general. It’s totally illogical on our part to assume that he, along with many Americans, would be able to apply the lessons of our history when their understanding of that history has been so compromised by our schools’ failure to deliver appropriate lessons in certain important areas of the curriculum. Now, Mr Trump wasn’t educated in a public school, like many other Americans, but the lessons he got appear to have been no better at his private school.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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