trump un african lunch
CNN
trump un african lunch
Now playing
00:53
Trump: My friends go to Africa to get rich
9:45am to 11:00pm / Meeting: UN Reform Family Photo-op at 9:45am prior to beginning of meeting Photo-spray of the United Nations Secretary-General with Heads of State and Government prior to their meeting on SEA.
UNTV
9:45am to 11:00pm / Meeting: UN Reform Family Photo-op at 9:45am prior to beginning of meeting Photo-spray of the United Nations Secretary-General with Heads of State and Government prior to their meeting on SEA.
Now playing
01:33
The times Donald Trump bashed the UN
President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Richard Drew/AP
President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Now playing
01:17
Trump to migrants: Make your nations great again
CNN
Now playing
00:58
Trump at UN: I didn't expect that reaction
US President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd Annual UN General Assembly in New York on September 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY        (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd Annual UN General Assembly in New York on September 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:07
Trump: I will always put America first
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will discuss leadership and global challenges in a special address to students at the University of Houston next week.    Palestine protests at 17:07.
KTRK
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will discuss leadership and global challenges in a special address to students at the University of Houston next week. Palestine protests at 17:07.
Now playing
01:32
Haley: Trump's unpredictability helped with NK
Pool
Now playing
01:57
Trump to UN: No country should shoulder burden
Now playing
01:19
Russian condemns US-led Syrian airstrikes
UNTV
Now playing
01:35
UN Secretary-General: The Cold War is back
Getty/CNNMoney
Now playing
02:04
UN source: NK sending supplies to Syria
untv
Now playing
02:06
Trump: The US has done well since Election Day
US President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd Annual UN General Assembly in New York on September 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY        (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd Annual UN General Assembly in New York on September 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:11
Trump: Iran nuclear deal is an embarrassment
Now playing
02:23
Trump to UN: 'Rocket Man' on a suicide mission
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19:  President Donald Trump speaks to world leaders at the 72nd United Nations (UN) General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on September 19, 2017 in New York City. This is Trump's first appearance at the General Assembly where he addressed threats from Iran and North Korea among other global concerns.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images North America
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: President Donald Trump speaks to world leaders at the 72nd United Nations (UN) General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on September 19, 2017 in New York City. This is Trump's first appearance at the General Assembly where he addressed threats from Iran and North Korea among other global concerns.
Now playing
01:32
Watch UNGA attendees react to Trump's speech
CNN
Now playing
03:04
UN employee describes alleged harassment
CNN
Now playing
03:45
UN imposes sanctions on Libyan 'traffickers'
CNN —  

President Donald Trump continued to make the rounds at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday. At lunch, he attended a gathering of African leaders and made a few remarks.

And almost immediately he said this:

“Africa has tremendous business potential, I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich. I congratulate you, they’re spending a lot of money. It has tremendous business potential, representing huge amounts of different markets. … It’s really become a place they have to go, that they want to go.”

So…..

As I’ve pointed out a lot of late, there is a tendency to become inoculated to odd or controversial things Trump says because, well, he says them a lot. But, it’s important to take note of moments – like this one – in which Trump says something that, coming out of the mouth of any previous modern president would have caused a medium-to-large international controversy.

(Yes, as the Internet was quick to note, Trump also mispronounced Namibia as “Nambia.”)

What Trump is congratulating the assembled African leaders on feels a whole lot like the colonialism of the continent by European powers in the latter part of the 19th century. As the New York Public Library notes in its “Africana Age” exhibit:

“By 1900 much of Africa had been colonized by seven European powers – Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Italy. After the conquest of African decentralized and centralized states, the European powers set about establishing colonial state systems. The colonial state was the machinery of administrative domination established to facilitate effective control and exploitation of the colonized societies. Partly as a result of their origins in military conquest and partly because of the racist ideology of the imperialist enterprise, the colonial states were authoritarian, bureaucratic systems.”

In previous centuries, the African people have been exploited, repeatedly, by multiple western countries including the US, and the relationship bears the stain of slavery and the slave trade. Many, many books have been written on this topic.

The motivations for colonialism then – as for business interests now – were primarily economic. The rich natural resources of Africa attracted the European titans. But the impact of colonialism on Africa – the partitioning of countries’ borders, the loss of indigenous African culture etc. – has proven to be hugely long-lasting and intractable.

Giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, he was simply congratulating African leaders on the economic growth in their countries in the over-the-top and odd way he often lavishes praise on people.

But, when you use words like “I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich,” it borders on invoking the image of exploitation – and being totally clueless about the history of colonialism in Africa.

Trump sounded a more politically correct note later in his remarks when he said: “Africa, I have to say, is a continent of tremendous, tremendous potential. The outlook is bright.” (Read Trump’s full remarks here.)

Still: He could have done without the first part of his speech.