First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Editorial
Reckoning for ‘Offensive Words’

The vile comments attributed to President Donald Trump about certain countries during an immigration policy meeting have been widely and deservedly condemned.

The president is said to have used strong words and profanities to disparage Haiti and countries of Africa, wondering why we should accept their people—nearly all of whom are black—instead of encouraging immigrants from Norway, which has one of the whitest populations in the world.

To call this a racist attitude is not a stretch, and many have done just that.

Among them, the National Black Catholic Congress, in its statement, “As people of faith, concerned with the dignity of all of God’s people, we deplore such racist and hateful speech.”

The Vatican newspaper said President Trump “used particularly harsh and offensive words about immigrants” from other countries.

Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, said it was “especially appalling” that the president “graphically enunciated the contempt he feels for people in struggling nations” while the U.S. Catholic Church was marking National Migration Week to reflect on the plight of migrants, immigrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking.

We might add that the Jan. 9 remarks were made just ahead of the holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Noble laureate whose inspirational leadership made him the most visible symbol of the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

Facing national and international outrage over the comments, the president declared to reporters days later, “I am not a racist.”

His political defenders, including some fellow Republicans who were present at the meeting, belatedly claimed they did not hear him call the countries “****holes,” as was reported.

Tragically, the uproar over the remarks threatens to derail bipartisan efforts to help Dreamers, young people illegally brought to the United States as children, and those with Temporary Protected Status, who are generally refugees from natural disasters in their homeland.

It’s especially unfortunate that such shocking comments ascribed to the President of the United States feed a growing negative perception of our country and its leadership at a time when the world is gripped by major problems, from threats of nuclear war to terrorism to climate change.

Our president, with the enormous resources of his office and our nation, should be a positive force in seeking a better world for all human beings made in the image and likeness of God.

He should not, as stated by a spokesman for the U.N. Human Rights Commission, be “opening the door to humanity’s worst side…validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and destroy lives of many people.”

Cardinal Dolan, in a Twitter post on Martin Luther King Day, remembered his fellow pastor, saying he misses the late civil rights leader “more than ever.”

“You so powerfully upheld the dignity of every human person, made in God’s image and likeness,” the cardinal wrote. “You would remind us today that no country is a ‘hole,’ no person unworthy of respect.”

That is as it should be.

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