Skittles are not People

Image: Donald Trump Jr.

On September nineteenth, 2016, at 4:41 in the afternoon, a man named Donald Trump Jr. decided to post a xenophobic Tweet about skittles.

This Tweet read, “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you[,] would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” The company Mars Incorporated responded appropriately with a Tweet reading, “Skittles are candy; refugees are people. It’s an inappropriate analogy. We respectfully refrain from further comment, as that could be misinterpreted as marketing.”

The most tragic part of this is that this photo is absurdly inaccurate. Donald Trump Jr.’s bowl contains about 100 skittles. If three skittles could kill you, then eating a handful of skittles from it would be dangerous, but this photo definitely exaggerates the risk that is taken from importing refugees. The Cato Institute found the risk to Americans when we allow refugees to “just come over without even knowing who they are.” The report found that the odds of dying in a terror attack by a refugee is: 1 in 3.64 million. As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump points out, adhering to Trump’s analogy, a bowl with three deadly Skittles (refugees) in it would need to contain 10.93 billion Skittles. His calculation showed that this number of skittles could fill one and a half olympic swimming pools. The bowl to hold this number of Skittles would be 246 feet long, 123 feet high, and nine feet deep. According to Bump, 200 million skittles are produced every day. That would mean, if you used every skittle that was produced for fifty-four days, you could fill that bowl… Or you could think of it this way: You’d have to go through 202,407,407 bags of Skittles (each of which contains about fifty-four candies) in order to find the three individual pieces that will kill you. Skittles accurate.pngSkittles_trump_hotel.jpg

The one thing that the original image forgets to mention is that each one of those skittles would have to first apply to the United Nations Refugee Agency, then apply to the federally-funded Resettlement Support Center, then go through the Biographic Security Checks that start with Enhanced Interagency Security Checks, then be interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security, this is all before receiving Biometric Security Checks, Medical Checks, and Cultural Orientation Classes and Assignment to Domestic Resettlement Locations. During every step, there is a recurrent vetting that never stops looking for affiliation to terrorist organizations. Then, they travel to the United States, and this includes them going through Customs and Immigration like everybody. The chances or possibility that a terrorist would abuse or even want to abuse this process is very unlikely because it would be much easier to travel to the US in a different way.

Trump’s tweet, much like the rhetoric of his father, implies that inviting refugees to the United States is a deadly risk not worth taking, but that risk, in reality, is unimaginably small.

Some people have fought this argument on Vox saying that his tweet was only referring to Syrian refugees. Since October, the United States has received 8,000 refugees from Syria. In this case, there would be zero deadly skittles.

Sources: Vox, The White House, United Nations

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