This is just the latest statement in a long list of racist remarks Trump has made in his lifetime. But the timing of the comments, just one day before the anniversary of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, is especially harrowing for Nathalie Pierre, chairwoman of the board of the Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy and PhD candidate in the department of History at NYU.
"Trump's comments, and the tepid retraction, are in line with the historical relationship of the two countries. U.S. presidents have authorized gunboat diplomacy in Haiti from the late 19th century and liberally invaded and/or intervened in Haitian affairs when it suited U.S. national interests," she told Refinery29 via email.
She added, "As a survivor of the Haitian earthquake that occurred eight years ago today, Trump's comments are like a knife jab to the quivering wound left by the 2010 earthquake. And yet, I am grateful for his honesty that reveals the deepest sentiments of my host country."
Trump's feelings for Haiti and other countries where the majority of the population are people of color are not surprising given his background. This is the man who in 1973 was sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination, alleging that he and his company refused to sell apartments to Black people.
Sophie Bjork-James, a Vanderbilt University anthropologist who studies white nationalism, told Refinery29 that Trump's remarks would inevitably resonate with these groups and part of his broader base too, since they believe people of color are inferior.
"He has a long history of talking about racialized groups in disparaging ways, from referring to Mexicans as rapists to advocating for a ban on Muslims. All of these ideas are held by white nationalists," she said.
She added that though Trump has emboldened white nationalist groups, that's not the risk we should be worrying about so much.
"The biggest danger of these kind of comments is not the emboldening of the organized racist —although this is surely to happen — but the potential normalizing of racist ideas," she said. "The more normal these extreme ideas become the more dangerous."