A day after President Donald Trump reportedly made a prejudicial remark about immigrants from Haiti and Africa, the top executive of a leading footwear charity that regularly provides resources to Haiti and other impoverished nations called the comments “offensive” and “uninformed.”
Buddy Teaster, the president and CEO of Soles4Souls, said the remarks, in which Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as “s**thole countries” at a Thursday White House meeting with a group of bipartisan senators, is wrong. He joins a chorus of leaders around the world denouncing the president’s words. U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville went even further, saying: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘s**tholes,’ whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”
Soles4Souls, a Nashville, Tenn.-based nonprofit, has been regularly providing used shoes to Haiti and has helped locals set up microenterprise businesses since the 2010 earthquake killed more than 300,000 people and forced survivors into disastrous living conditions.
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“Soles4Souls has had the pleasure of working with thousands of Haitian men, women and children since 2010. I don’t know how many Haitians the president knows, but the ones we know work harder than just about anyone in the world,” Teaster told Footwear News.“His characterization of the country and its people is offensive, wrong and uninformed.”
“There is no question that Haiti is a challenge on many fronts,” added Teaster. “What we’ve seen time after time, however, is that parents in Haiti want the same things for their children that we want for ours: enough to eat, an education, a roof over their heads and a chance for a better future. Soles4Souls believes that by treating Haitians with dignity and respect — basic human decency — we can make more progress together.”
Several other footwear firms are active in Haiti and responded as well.
Designer Kenneth Cole built a health center at St. Mary’s Hospital in Cite Soleil in 2012 and has produced limited-edition sandal collaborations with local artisans. More recently, the company opened a store in Petionville, a district that sits above Port-au-Prince.
“Eight years after the devastating #Haiti earthquake & still committed to help rebuild,” Cole tweeted on Friday.
Also on Friday, Trump appeared to downplay the controversy through a tweet: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”