On January 11, 2018, during an Oval Office talk with several U.S. senators about protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries in a new immigration package, President Donald Trump unleashed a word that Americans aren't accustomed to hearing from their president.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump reportedly asked. (He later denied having said this.)
Months earlier, Trump had reportedly complained that Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts” and Haitians “all have AIDS.” He doubled down at the Oval Office meeting. “Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said. “Take them out.”
In their stead, Trump spoke of taking in immigrants from great European countries like Norway, and also from Asian countries, since they could help America economically.
The private conversation leaked. Shithole snatched the headlines. But what made this moment historic, what made this moment unprecedented, was not merely the misuse of a vile word. It was the racial hierarchy Trump constructed with that language. He placed whites over Asians, and both over Latinos and blacks from “shithole” countries.