Why An Elementary School Spelling Bee Brought Home Just How Much I Despise The President
Since the launching of this website two weeks ago, I tried my best not to even think of the president of the United States, much less write about him.
But his racist, vulgar remarks about immigrants from Africa, Haiti and El Salvador last week – calling them “shithole countries” — repulsed me so that I actually considered writing a retort, but held off even then because I honestly did not want to acknowledge this immoral reprobate.
Then, last Friday afternoon, I found myself at one of Fort Worth’s most prestigious public elementary schools, and I thought of the president – wishing he could be standing where I was and see what I was seeing.
I had been asked to be the announcer for the school’s annual Spelling Bee, something I had done in years past. Standing on the stage and preparing to call out the words for the 31 young contestants, I looked at those beaming youthful faces on the stage and at the audience (filled with other students, as well as parents and other relatives who had come to watch) and my heart was filled with joy and pride.
As I stood behind the podium on the stage, I looked around the auditorium and I saw what America looks like; I felt what I think America should feel like; I thought of what America one day might act like.
It was a very diverse group, with representatives of various cultures, nationalities, religions and backgrounds supporting and applauding each other. On that afternoon it was a very special place and one where I was delighted to be.
As usual, it was a tense and emotional competition, including a couple of challenges and several gasps when a couple of favorites were eliminated.
Then it came to the last two contestants – two young men. When the first speller missed, it was up to the final speller not only to spell correctly the next word, but an additional word.
He did, and the auditorium erupted with cheers. His proud mother rushed toward the stage to congratulate her son, as did several teachers and classmates.
After taking a photo with the first- and second-place winners, a teacher escorting her class out of the auditorium said to me about the champion, “You know, he’s only been in this country a year.”
“No, I didn’t know that,” I replied.
He was obviously a new immigrant, but I didn’t know his nationality or his religion or anything else except that he had exhibited great confidence throughout the competition, and that he had a family that loved him and obviously wanted to see him succeed.
I didn’t know if he had come from a country that the president considered a “shithole,” but seeing that he had darker skin, I imagined that since the president prefers “white” immigrants (like from Norway) he would not have approved of this one.
How dare he not be accepting of a young man of this caliber who is the future – the promise – of America?
You’ve probably noticed that I have not mentioned the president’s name in this column, for the very mention of it turns my stomach.
I can tell you this: that I am prouder of this young Spelling Bee champion than I will ever be of the sitting president of the United States.
In fact, on the drive back to my office that afternoon, I thought that America’s “shithole” might now very well be the White House.
Because the president is such a great liar, and his surrogates (including the righteous religious right) will never condemn him despite his sins), I must point out the hypocrisy of him and his ardent supporters.
Just a cursory review of African and/or Black immigrants in the U.S. revealed some important facts that we should know and acknowledge.
After Googling, the first three headlines that popped up were:
- “The Top 3 Things you Need to Know About Black Immigrants in the United States in 2018” (Center for American Progress)
- “African Immigrants are more educated than most – including people born in U.S.” (Los Angeles Times)
- “Africa Is Sending Us Its Best and Brightest” (Bloomberg)
All of theses sources came up with the same basic conclusion – that immigrants from Africa and other “Black” countries were more educationally qualified and committed to work than the average immigrant and most Americans born in this country.”
According to the LA Times story, of the “1.4 million (Africans) who are 25 and older, 41% have a bachelor’s degree, compared with 30% of all immigrants and 32% of the U.S.-born population. Of the 19,000 U. S. immigrants from Norway – a country Trump reportedly told lawmakers is a good source of immigrants – 38% have college educations.”
“The New American Economy study found that 1 in 3 of these undergraduate degrees were focused on science, technology, engineering and math – ‘training heavily in demand by today’s employers.’”
It continued, “That report also found that African immigrants were significantly more likely to have graduate degrees. A total of 16% had a master’s degree, medical degree, law degree or a doctorate, compared with 11% of the U.S.-born population. . . . African immigrants were more than twice as likely than the U.S. population overall to work in healthcare . . . . There are more than 32,500 nursing, psychiatric or home health aides, more than 46,000 registered nurses and more than 15,700 doctors and surgeons.”
The LA Times article goes on to say, quoting an informed source, “Overwhelmingly the evidence shows that [African immigrants] make a significant, positive economic contribution to the U.S. economy . . . . They contribute more than $10.1 billion in federal taxes, $4.7 billion in state and local taxes, and most importantly, they have significant economic clout to the point of $40.3 billion in spending power.”
The poet Nikki Giovanni once asked a repetitive question about people like the president and his supporters: “Ain’t they got no shame?”
She concluded then, as I do now: “Nah, they ain’t got no shame.”