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Harsh lessons from Donald Trump

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Harsh lessons from Donald Trump

By Anver Versi

In April 2017, New African ran a story asking if Donald Trump was ‘dangerous to Africa?’ The consensus of our writers contributing to the cover story, and based on his utterances, was that yes, he was dangerous to Africa.

Everything he has said since has confirmed that his view of the world is deeply racist and that he has nothing but contempt for people of colour – within and without the US borders.

It has now become abundantly clear that he has been reflecting the views of a large majority of his electorate, mostly poorly educated whites from the southern states, where racism is deeply entrenched. His support there, despite his outlandish tweets, remains firm as before.

We have become familiar with the crudeness of his language, his blithe ignorance of the world beyond the US’s borders and his posturing, but few would have expected him to descend to the level of dismissing our entire continent as full of ‘sh****le countries’.

This stung. Some misguided people rushed off pictures of lovely houses or beautiful African landscapes to CNN in a laughable attempt to ‘educate’ Trump on the error of his ways.

They missed the point completely. His statement, made for the benefit of his advisers and policy makers, went far beyond a foul-mouthed abuse of black people – it was meant to dismiss an entire continent as worthless, fit only as a toilet.

This goes beyond crassness. As several Western commentators have pointed out, statements like these – added to his description of violent white supremacists in Charlottesville as ‘fine people’, his persistent hounding of Barack Obama, his ‘Muslim ban’ and many other utterances – have echoes of Stalin and Hitler. That makes him dangerous.

No wonder, following his sh****le statement, Ebba Kalondo, speaking on behalf of the AU, said: “The AU Commission is frankly alarmed at statements by the President of the United States when referring to migrants of African countries and others in such contemptuous terms. Considering the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the US during the Atlantic slave trade, this flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice.”

This was a measured, diplomatic response to what amounted to a public humiliation of Africa. African diplomats at the UN expressed their outrage to the US’s UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, who made the usual diplomatic noises to placate them but no apology or retraction has been forthcoming.

Instead, the US State Department excused Trump by saying he used ‘tough language’ and Trump himself simply denied making the statement, blaming, as usual, ‘fake news’.

Taking off the blinkers

Interestingly, his approval rating among his followers in the US went up following this outburst. Many said he was speaking what was in ‘everybody’s mind’, and political correctness had prevented them from using robust language.

Perhaps we should be thankful to Trump for removing the blinkers we so often wear and telling us exactly what he, many in his administration and large parts of the US think about us, without coating the pill with diplomatic sugar.

Perhaps now many of our leaders, and our youth, will stop deluding themselves that they matter to the superpowers. Perhaps now some of our leaders will cease their embarrassingly obsequious behaviour towards the West.

Paul Kagame, as usual, hit the nail on the head when, speaking at the African Development Bank summit, he said it was a shame that Africans only seem to be interested in solving their problems when invited to do so by Western leaders in Western capitals. In reality, he said, all they really want is a photo opportunity to be seen as mattering to the powers that be.

Kagame is right. Instead of hankering for a pat on the back from outsiders, Africans, including our leaders, should take pride in their own abilities to solve their own problems, instead of running to the West. No one respects weakness.

But for starters, if you don’t respect yourself, don’t expect anyone else to. And respect for yourself begins with respect for your people – if you do not love, cherish and respect your own people and stand up for their rights and dignity, you deserve all the lashing that the likes of Trump are happy to dish out. NA

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Written by Anver Versi

Award-winning journalist Anver Versi is the editor of New African magazine. He was born in Kenya and is currently based in London, UK.

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