Disproving the President’s Insensitive Remark

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TORCH PHOTO/JUDITH FORTUNOVA-RUSSELL

Students discussed Trump's controversial term with Haitian Society and CSA.

Judith Fortunova-Russell, Contributing Writer

During a recent White House discussion on protecting immigrants from Africa, Haiti and El Salvador, President Donald Trump reportedly stated, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

As Trump’s remarks were roundly derided both nationally and internationally, the St. John’s University Caribbean Student Association and Haitian Society decisively united in solidarity.

In an effort to spread awareness of the offensive nature of the president’s word choice, the two organizations collaborated to host the on-campus discussion, “Shithole Countries.”

The event, open to the entire university community, took place on Jan.18 in St. John Hall room 315.

“We were hoping to unify together in support of each other through this difficult time of prejudice and to disprove the negative stereotypes of Haitians,” Amenkha Sembenu, president of the Caribbean Student Association, said.

More than 30 students with roots from different countries and islands all across the Caribbean gathered in the classroom for the Thursday afternoon event.

The discussion began with an explanation of the president’s reported word choice and then invited students to share their thoughts and feelings on the term.

“It was very well calculated, to distract us from more important issues at hand, to create controversy in order to gain press attention and to keep people talking about him,” senior Jean Louis said.

Many of the students argued that the words were particularly harmful because it set a bad example for social progress, equality and leadership within the country.

Speakers argued that discrimination and racism takes shape in many different forms — from symbols in religion, to events on the news and even beauty standards within pop-culture.

As the conversation deepened and steered away from the president, Sembenu brought up a more complex concern: How do we overcome the prejudice of Haitians within our own Caribbean community?

Most acknowledged that education and awareness are key to overcoming ignorance while others agreed that words alone are not enough and that action is necessary in order to achieve equality.

“There’s still a lot of things as a society, whether black or white, we all need to work on,” junior Destiny McIntosh said.