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Ohio U students from “shithole countries” speak out

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Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2016. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Comments made by President Trump hit close to home for some Ohio U students.

It was the reportedly offensive comment said in a cabinet meeting last week by President Donald Trump in regards to immigrants from Haiti and countries in Africa that set of a firestorm of backlash from world leaders and citizens alike. For students at Ohio University from these countries, the comments were unwelcome.

“Why do we want all these people from shithole countries coming here?” Trump allegedly said earlier this month in the meeting with members of his cabinet and congressional leaders.

While none of the 173 came from Haiti, one came from El Salvador, and the remaining 172 came from Africa. The highest represented African countries were Ghana with 62 students, Nigeria with 32 and Kenya with 14.

Ohio U students who come from countries Trump reportedly deemed a "shithole."
Ohio U students who come from countries Trump reportedly deemed a “shithole.” Graphic by Sarah Horne.

Trump’s racially charged comment has left many students, staff and organizations in disbelief at the stance of his administration.

“Africa is not a shithole continent,” Thelma Agyekum, President of the African Student Association Undergraduate Chapter at Ohio U, said. As the daughter of two African immigrants, Agyekum and the club she leads is particularly hurt by Trump’s words.

“One of my members from Africa is really disappointed and very hurt because he doesn’t like  that perception of Africa,” Agyekum said. “We need help from other countries.”

Agyekum acknowledged that Africa faces challenges, but she said that Trump’s negative outlook is not conducive for a change in dialogue.

According to Agyekum, development in Africa depends on identifying and strengthening its assets, not focusing on the problems it is trying to overcome. A problems-based approach, she added, puts unnecessary emphasis on negative aspects and perpetuates negative opinions.

“My mom and dad, for example, came to America because to them America is the land of opportunity,” Agyekum said. “People here can get the education and job opportunities they need, and once we have that we can help not only Africa, but everybody in the world. Many African students are at OU to gain the education they need to bring change to their homes.”

Ohio U students who come from countries Trump reportedly deemed a "shithole." Graphic by Sarah Horne.
Ohio U students who come from countries Trump reportedly deemed a “shithole.” Graphic by Sarah Horne.

Agyekum questioned why the president would single out Haiti and all the countries on the African continent. While she acknowledged that there are many other impoverished nations, Agyekum was bothered by Trump’s attack on these predominantly black countries.

More than half of white Americans and 90 percent of black Americans found the comment to be racist, according to a national poll conducted by the Washington Post.

“The (President’s) comments are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values,” Mia Love, a GOP Representative of Haitian descent, said in a Tweeted statement.

I am the least racist person,” Trump claimed in response to the accusations. Defenders of Trump have stood by the president on the grounds that his comments were just “calling it like it is.”

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