Why Trump's Shithole Country Comments Are So Dangerous

The world erupted when during a White House meeting on immigration, US president, Donald Trump, referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries.” The president claimed that he would prefer to take immigrants from Norway.

The comments follow a long pattern of racist, and derogatory comments towards people of colour. These particular comments were laced with strong undercurrents of anti-black sentiment as most of the countries referred to are home to people with dark skin.

Coming from a shithole country myself I felt a flicker of annoyance at yet another news story in which African nations were being denigrated.

Trump's words do nothing to combat the self-loathing such comments can create. The image young black children and adults all over the world will see of themselves after hearing such words. When every time you see yourself reflected in the media you're hearing and seeing yourself constantly being disparaged and denigrated, it wears you down. It makes you feel as if there is something wrong with the way you are. That you are not and never will be good enough. That the world was not meant for people like you. It eats away at your confidence and the way you feel about yourself. If you're not surrounded by the right people this can break you and bury hate deep inside your heart.

So, What’s the Problem?

We know comments like these are offensive, but I don’t know if many people understand why exactly comments like these can be so dangerous.

Words may not seem like much but sometimes they can have deep, long-term impact. We need only look back at history to see the impact words have had on instigating change. 

"I have a dream." 

"A new day is on the horizon."
“We Shall Fight on the Beaches.”

We can paint an entire portrait of history using only speeches. Capture the sentiments of the people, the early tides of change.

Contrary to popular belief, words matter. Language is one of the most important tools we have and it can be more powerful than a bullet, more powerful than even money. Words have the ability to affect something truly important. Our hearts. And that is where change starts, good or bad. The thing is, everybody's got words and not everybody has good intentions.

Who Gives and Who Takes?

When a great power like The US refers to these countries in such a way, it reinforces the negative stereotypes and perceptions surrounding them. That notion that there are certain countries that give and certain countries that can only take allowing for post-colonial exploitation.

Jason Hickel is an anthropologist at the London School of Economics.
His book, The Divide, argues that contrary to the belief that northern countries provide aid to southern poorer nations, it is in fact, these “developing countries” that develop the developed.

He breaks it down like this:

The foreign aid budget that flows from rich to poor countries is 130 billion dollars a year. The equivalent of all of the profits of commercial banks in the US combined. Rich countries give some of their surpluses to poorer countries in order to bridge the global divide. However, much more money flows from south to north than north to south. Aid is not flowing from with Rich Western countries to the poorer nations, it’s flowing in reverse. Poor countries are developing Rich countries, not the other way around.

Global Financial Integrity partnered with the Norwegian School of Economics to do the most comprehensive study of financial flow ever. They found poor countries were net creditors to rich countries on such a scale that for every dollar of aid they get, they lose $24  in net outflows.

These shithole countries aren’t able to develop themselves because they’re too propping up the economies of the north with gold, copper, cheap labour, oil, all sorts of resources. Then mix in the wounds of their colonial pasts, and imperialism and you've got a lot to fight against.

When non-western nations are repeated disparaged it cultivates fertile grounds for oppression and exploitation in which everyday people in countries not considered “shithole countries” are more compliant and willing to allow terrible things to be done to people in the supposed "shithole countries." It serves western narratives as it strengthens the imbalanced power dynamics between nations and allows these people to be explored financially without any public concern. It also devalues all the intelligent and talented people that live in the nations and the work they have done to make not just their nations, but the west great too.

So the next time you hear these nations being demeaned, remember the sacrifices and the contributions they have made. So as you read this on your cellular device or on your laptop made by people being paid for little it can only be called modern slavery, consider the scientists, the engineers, the nurses and the doctors, the teachers and the academics. The poets, writers and musicians, the labourers and the builders. The app developers and the coders. Consider how they all work together, against all odds, not only to make their own countries great but the western world's too.

L E A R N   M O R E

To Hear more from Jason Hickel listen to Russell Brand's Under The Skin Podcast, Episode 24  or Read his book The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and Its Solutions.

To read the financial report that addresses financial flows see the link below.


  1. Even if western nations benefit from highly skilled foreign workers the 3rd world countries do not. This still proves those countries are not first world.

    1. I deliberately didn't use the phrases "first world" and "third world." That category is no longer accurate for the 21st century. First world countries have third world qualities and third world country have first world qualities. The two countries aren't as far apart as the term suggests. So I cannot even begin to properly respond to you as you're using a criteria that isn't right to begin with.

      You can't call a whole country a shithole. Every place on earth has good parts and bad parts. America's health care is so poor, it's considered third world. That doesn't make America a Third world country. We need terms that take into account the differences and unique workings of a country instead of a inaccurate and somewhat derogatory and culturally superior term.

  2. Even if western nations benefit from highly skilled foreign workers the 3rd world countries do not. This still proves those countries are not first world.

    1. "Rich countries give some of their surpluses to poorer countries in order to bridge the global divide." The two countries are far apart since you mention a country can be wealthier than another. Just because it is mean doesn't mean you should avoid stating a fact.


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