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Responding to the “Shithole”: Why Africans and Haitians Shouldn’t List Their Degrees

After his “shithole” comments, spending a moment’s breath proving that Donald Trump is racist is a waste of time. But so is the prospect of Africans and Haitians rebutting the argument that their respective countries are shitholes by listing their degrees and other academic achievements as evidence to the contrary. The reason is simple. Racists don’t care what black people have done or achieved, or how we have contributed to our societies.

Their hatred of us rests SOLELY on the fact that we’re black. That’s it. Our degrees and accolades won’t change that. It doesn’t matter if we become presidents or paupers, lawyers or landscapers. No degree, no professional achievement, no contribution to society is enough to make them like us. In fact, those things often make them hate us even more. One need look no further than the internet to see racists go crazy when a black person is at the top of our game.

Besides, falling into the respectability politics trap of listing our degrees as evidence of our worth and dignity undermines the core truth of our humanity. We are worthy and dignified all by ourselves. A surgeon is no more worthy than stripper. A professor is no more worthy than a plumber. Our degrees, though many, our achievements though innumerable, and our contributions though undeniable, aren’t the price of admission into human dignity and respect. I humbly submit that we do ourselves a disservice when we offer to jump through hoops to prove that we are worthy, especially to people who aren’t the arbiters of our humanity.

Just as degrees and professional accolades don’t stop bullets and nooses, they don’t stop hate speech either. Rest assured, with or without your Ivy League degree, racists say the same thing about you behind closed doors.  The moral burden falls on them not you. Remember that the next time Donald Trump opens his shithole.