The man who would throw paper towels during a crisis
SUSAN K. SMITH | 10/15/2017, 1 p.m.
Crazy Faith Ministries
The image of the president of this nation throwing paper towels to people in Puerto Rico who are reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Maria says everything we need to know about the sickness called racism.
After berating the mayor of San Juan, calling the Puerto Ricans “ingrates” and saying that the Puerto Rican people were waiting for “everything to be done for them,” the reality show host who was elected president hurled what was a humiliating, insulting final blow.
His throwing the paper towels looked on this end like he was making sport of their suffering. The optic reminded some of what it looks like to throw peanuts to animals in cages in zoos; for others, it looked like he was practicing throwing basketballs into a basket.
If ever there was proof of how sick racist thinking is, it was during this visit. The president and this nation have virtually ignored the Puerto Ricans, whose entire island was demolished by Hurricane Maria. These people – American citizens who happen to have brown skin – are taxpayers, yes, but they are also human beings.
Their suffering was and continues to be minimized by this president, who continues to say that he and his administration are doing a “remarkable” job in Puerto Rico.
Even before he made his visit to the island, the president was blaming Puerto for its difficulty in getting help to address the devastation and the ease the abject suffering of Puerto Ricans, many of whom still have no clean water, very little food and no electricity. He noted the “massive debt,” intimating that the island’s financial woes may be a reason why repairs to its electric grid may be slow to come. PREPA, the island’s electric company, has a massive $9 billion debt, which it cannot pay; it recently defaulted on an interest payment. The president, however, showed no concern for the citizens who, despite stifling heat, will have no air conditioning, no lights, no way to refrigerate either food or medication.
Fresh water – to drink and in which to bathe – is scarce, and most hospitals are running on generators with limited fuel.
The fact that people – American citizens – are suffering so, however, seems to have made very little impact on this nation’s president. Some have cryptically suggested that his lack of interest is related not only to his racism, but also to his lack of any financial holdings on the island. A former Trump International Golf Club reportedly collapsed in bankruptcy two years ago, leaving the island strapped with a $33 million debt.
Whatever his reasons, the president’s actions showed front and center what it looks like when racism rears its ugly head, showing its tentacles. The president’s remarks, his dismissal of the suffering of the Puerto Rican people, his criticism of San Juan Mayor Carme Yulin Cruz after she criticized the United States for its non-support, and finally, his throwing paper towels to American citizens who are suffering from the worst natural disaster to hit their island in years, leaving too many of them without food, shelter, water and electricity, shows how racists dehumanize and then separate from people whom they deem are not worth their time.
The images of this president throwing paper towels will not ever go away, but unfortunately, for the large number of people who support him and think like he does, it will make no difference. The poisonous side effect of racism is that it erases the capacity of the human who is immersed in it so care about others. This president probably thinks he did nothing wrong – and that’s what makes this scenario the saddest of all.
This president represents the shame of America, period.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is a preacher, writer and organizer She is available for speaking. She can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.