On the eight Anniversary of the catastrophic Earthquake in Haiti which killed more than 230,000 Haitians and prompted many Americans–and our houses of worship–toward humanitarian responses to those who survived, Donald Trump decided to breathe new life into White Supremacy and the hatred of Haitians and people from impoverished lands, seeking a better life, and the “American Dream.”
Trump’s ignorant, hateful, racist comments were consistent with his own family’s history of White Supremacy, and the United States history of racial discrimination dating back to the founding of a nation half free and half enslaved, and an immigration system designed to keep out “undesirable” non-whites dating back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Italian immigrants–considered to be a subhuman race from the “shithole” nation of that time, and numbering nearly four million by the early 1920’s–became the explicit target of America’s White Supremacist’s Anti-Immigration Law of 1924.
And, as Princeton Law Professor James Q. Whitman documents in his recent book Hitler’s American Model: The United States & the Making of Nazi Race Law, Adolf Hitler and Nazi jurists expressed admiration for that specific Anti-Immigration law, and used it–along with the Jim Crow laws of 30 American States–as the basis for the Nuremberg Laws, which discriminated against Jews, and were used as legal justification for mass murder.
Haiti, as a French colony, supported the American Revolutionary War effort against England, sending supplies to the colonists and troops to fight alongside Americans. In 1804, while slavery was still thriving in the United States, and propping up the economy of the South, Haiti became the first Republic in the Western Hemisphere to overthrow slavery, and become a nation free of it. That would not happen for another 60 years in the United States, after 750,000 people died fighting a war over the White Supremacists inhumane practice of Black enslavement.
As the New York Times pointed out in its editorial of January 13, 2018, entitled “So Much for the Beacon of Hope:”
“No one is denying that Haiti and some of these countries have profound problems today. Of course, these problems are often a direct result of policies and actions of the United States and European nations: to name a few, kidnapping & enslaving their citizens; plundering their natural resources; propping up their dictators and corrupt regimes; and holding them financially hostage for generation.”
Dr. Paul Farmer, in his brilliant book AIDS & Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame clearly demonstrates that Haiti was victimized by Westerners (Americans and Europeans) spreading HIV and other diseases in its major urban areas and not the other way around, as Trump falsely claimed when he said several months ago that “Haitians all have AIDS.” It was the same pernicious lie spread by White Supremacists about Haiti for decades. Dr. Farmer’s study points out:
“As a US-trained physician, it is clear to me that, even today, many health professionals have distorted views about AIDS & Haiti. These distortions are even more grotesque among the lay public, as many North Americans still believe that AIDS came to the U.S from Haiti, and not vice versa.”
Having worked at the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center in the heart of Brooklyn the the late 1990’s, one of the epicenters of the Haitian population in the United States, I witnessed–and worked with– a large number of highly-trained medical professionals from Haiti and other Caribbean nations who devoted their lives to serving the healthcare needs of 2.6 million Brooklynites. They were colorblind in their care for patients, and extraordinary in their degree of professionalism. The house in which I was born on Hawthorne Street in Brooklyn, just a few blocks from the Medical Center, was now meticulously cared for and lived in by a Haitian family.
But the Trump family, whose real estate empire began in Brooklyn, wanted the color of its’ tenants skin to be anything but Black. The Trump Organization, which built working class housing in Brooklyn with federal tax dollars, actively sought to keep African & Caribbean Americans out. Fred & Donald Trump’s company was found guilty by the Federal Government in 1973 for discriminating against Black’s, and the Trump’s–despite being represented by mobbed-up lawyer Roy Cohn– were forced to integrate their housing.
It wasn’t the first time the Trumps were caught practicing their own brand of White Supremacy. In May, 1927, as reported in the New York Times, Fred Trump was arrested at a KKK Rally in Queens. The Klan was at the peak of its power in the North at that time, was virulently anti-immigrant, as well as anti-Black, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic. White Supremacists were instrumental in denying New York State’s Catholic Governor Al Smith the nomination for President at the 1924 Democratic National Convention, and in beating back an anti-Klan resolution.
The Klan amassed 50,000 protestors to march through Washington, DC that same year–1924–the year when Congress passed the sweeping anti-Immigration Act, which took special aim at Italian immigrants, and immigrants from non-“Nordic” nations, and became a model for the Nazis Nuremberg Laws. Fred Trump knew exactly what the White Supremacist organization was advocating when he attended their rally in 1927. Three months later, the Italian political activists Sacco & Vanzetti were executed in Massachusetts in a climate of virulent anti-Italian immigrant hatred, and a national hysteria over “radical” elements.
The Times points out (January 13, 2018) that throughout his lifetime, we have seen Donald Trump’s White Supremacist prejudices rear their ugliness again and again:
“We knew it in 1989, when he took out a full-page newspaper ad calling for the execution of five black & Latino teenagers…(later exonerated by DNA and other evidence)…We knew it again when he built a presidential campaign by demonizing Mexicans and Muslims, while promoting the lie that America’s first Black President wasn’t born here…And, again, last summer when he defended marchers in a neo-Nazi parade as ‘very fine people.’”
Now, on the Anniversary of the National Holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King–a holiday which many of the very same White Nationalists supporting Donald Trump fiercely campaigned against creating–it’s instructive to recall a powerful sermon given by Dr. King, two months before his assassination, 50 years ago this April. The sermon, which he entitled, “The Drum Major Instinct,” was delivered from the pulpit of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia on February 4, 1968:
“Do you know that a lot of the race problem grows out of the drum major instinct? A need that some people have to feel superior. A need that some people have to feel that they are first, and to feel that their white skin ordained them to be first. And they have said it over and over again in ways that we see with our own eyes…And think of what has happened in history as a result of this perverted use of the drum major instinct. It has led to the most tragic prejudice, the most tragic expressions of man’s inhumanity to man.”