- The faculty members of the Africana Studies program at Bryn Mawr College register opposition to reported statements of the President of the United States (Jan. 29, 2018):
Africana Studies Statement in Response to Remarks by President Trump
The faculty members of the Africana Studies program at Bryn Mawr College register our opposition and outrage at the reported derogatory statements of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, in characterizing the countries in the Caribbean, Central America and Africa from which many migrants to the United States come. Despite the denials from the President, members of his administration and some Republican senators, there is credible evidence that the reports of the statements are true. Since the utterances came out of an unguarded moment of frustration at current policy, they are more likely to be a true reflection of the President's feelings and values. The coached denials some days later, after the damage has been done, is not convincing. This is only the latest in a pattern of characterization of people from foreign cultures in broad negative terms, and of equivocation in the face of racist speech and behavior by hate groups at home.
As a part of the community of scholars, we are affronted but not surprised. The unfiltered and spontaneous habits of speech of President Trump allow a glimpse into the deep fears that have informed the crafting of domestic and foreign policy by much of the business and governmental elite in this and other colonizing countries since at least the eighteenth century. For example, the boldness and astuteness of the Haitian people for winning their freedom was greeted with sanction and sabotage by the French and American governments. Over the centuries since, the paths to progress have been blocked or dug with pitfalls by processes of pillage of natural resources, unequal trade, and exploitative investments, in Haiti and all the other countries that have now been disparaged by the President. Earthquakes and other natural disasters have sometimes made conditions worse.
Migration has been one of the natural responses of people in those countries to the setbacks of nature and to the poverty and frustration that result from the distortion of their economies and societies by the power of American and European corporations and the governments that sponsor and protect them. Migrants move to the United States and Europe as a result of the same forces that brought companies and capital to their countries of origin. It is therefore disingenuous for the President to describe the home countries of migrants in disparaging terms, while upholding the power structures that cause or prolong the conditions that force them to leave home in the first place.
Both global elites and local poor in all countries, including the United States, respond to global forces. The system moves jobs and trade to the places, local or foreign, that yield them most profits. That same system also heightens rivalry between jobseekers in different countries. If American and European companies want residential status and property rights in the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa, then migrants from those countries want dignity and legal protections, and workers of all ethnicities want job security, in the United States and Europe. Then together we can work to change the patterns of economy and rules that perpetuate poverty and destroy natural environments everywhere.
So, to use racialist language to characterize migrants and the countries from which they come, is to draw attention away from the historical and structural patterns that generate poverty everywhere, and to deceive portions of the poor and middle class in the United States and Europe into thinking that their own troubles are caused by strangers from another shore. The racialist, xenophobic, and anti-environmentalist statements and policies of this administration are part of the larger project to maintain global systems of dominance by creating social divisions within and between countries. We call it for what it is and refuse to go along.
We affirm the humanity and dignity of migrants in the United States and Europe, as they respond to forces in the globalized economy. We affirm the aspirations of the working class and poor in the United States and Europe for satisfying work that meets their needs for housing, education, health, community, safe and attractive environments, and creative leisure. The aspirations of citizens and migrants are not being met by racialist politics. Let us search for cooperative solutions instead.
Africana Studies Faculty and Staff
Bryn Mawr College