I’m seldom political. It’s just my nature. I purposely stay out of politics because of all the taxing emotions involved.
That’s partly why I have gone to great lengths to block out President Donald Trump. But it is such a hard task, as evidenced by Trump’s vulgar language toward black and brown immigrants, like me. And on Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security said it will block Haitians from receiving temporary agricultural and seasonal visas.
I could have stayed on the sidelines, again. But I couldn’t.
I am not surprised by Trump’s despicable language, nor by his government’s decision on visas. Many of us have been subjected to his vitriol for the better part of two years. The timing, however, was a bit surprising. I have always felt that to get elected, he made such inflammatory comments to more deeply reach certain conservatives who believe this country of immigrants is better off without immigrants.
It has taken me a year to realize that this was not at all a strategy, but instead a reflection of the president’s beliefs. Divide these United States and conquer. One might argue that he is fulfilling the promises he made to those who voted for him.
His vile comments underscore something much more sinister, however. They are racist.
With the goal shared by many immigrants, to seek better opportunities, I migrated to New York City from Haiti in 1985. Now I am 50, with a slightly different outlook. Many of the opportunities that were presented to me then are slowly vanishing for the current generation of migrants. This country has done wonders for me, opened many doors. After two years at Bushwick High School, I graduated as valedictorian, which helped me secure a full scholarship at Pace University. I have never looked back.
We Haitians have been dealt many blows — either from forces beyond our control (such as natural disasters) or from Haiti’s government (decades of corruption and poverty) — but we have always managed to get back on our feet. Doing it all, for the most part, with smiles on our faces.
Haiti has a lot of catching up to do; our work is cut out for us, for sure. But we could have done without Trump’s comments. We don’t deserve them. They are unwarranted and reflect poorly, not on us, but on the president of the United States.
I’m taking the high road. I’ll focus on the fact that the president’s views and beliefs mirror only that of a specific group of conservatives. There has been an outpouring of support from all parts of the world, and that further affirms my faith in America as a nation.
We will bend, but not break.
Jean Bernard Denis is a software developer in lower Manhattan.