“Make America Great Again,” the campaign slogan of President Donald Trump, can be found emblazoned on the hats and shirts of many of his supporters all across the nation.
For many this phrase seems rather nebulous, but what exactly does it mean to “Make America Great Again?”
Trump provides an answer in an interview with The New York Times where he points to the ‘40s and ‘50s as a time where he felt America was great.
“We were not pushed around,” he said. “We were respected by everybody, we had just won a war, we were pretty much doing what we had to do.”
There it is, the answer to making America great again: hold another devastating world war and use the influx of funds from the military-industrial complex to rebuild the economy.
What a great plan. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it (aside from the obvious), there’s no reason America can’t be made great again.
Aside from one little detail. America was never great to begin with.
The time that Trump thinks was “great” saw the signing of executive order 9066 which authorized the imprisonment of Japanese Americans.
According to Reuters, roughly 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced into 10 internment camps scattered all along the country under fear of them being enemy sympathizers.
These people had done nothing wrong, and yet they had their rights stripped of them and their livelihoods destroyed.
In that time the question arises, was America great for them?
Going back further to a particularly dark blemish on America’s “greatness”: the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.
A little known, yet incredibly destructive event that ended in the complete annihilation of what many at the time called “the Black Wall Street.”
The events which occurred in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma that led to the riot are wrapped in some confusion.
According to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum site, there was an incident between a young black man, Dick Rowland, and a young white woman, Sarah Page, that led to the young man being arrested.
The official report states that the two may have been lovers, or they may have barely known each other, but what is known is that the young man was arrested and held for investigation.
According to The New York Times, on March 31, 1921, hundreds of armed white men gathered outside of where Rowland was held and demanded he be handed over for lynching.
A much smaller group of armed black men arrived to prevent this and a standoff ensued. Eventually a shot was fired, and the destruction of the black portion of Tulsa began.
An account from Buck Colbert Franklin, a survivor and witness of the incident, describes planes as flying over the area, dropping burning turpentine balls, literally raining fire.
The riot went on early into the morning of June 1, 1921, and led to the destruction of roughly 40 blocks, the loss of over 1200 homes and between 100 and 300 deaths.
The surviving black community were all rounded up and imprisoned for up to 8 days, and an all-white grand jury found the black community responsible in court.
Overall 10,000 black people had their lives destroyed and no one remembers.
Was America great for them? No, no it wasn’t.
Going back even further, a prime example is the Wilmington insurrection of 1898.
Literally the only coup d’etat in American history, committed by white nationalists on a fusionist black and white joint government.
According to NPR, on Nov. 8, 1898, a mob of white supremacists stormed the Wilmington capital building and forced the resignations of the entire government. They then destroyed as many black businesses as they could and ran off, or killed, as many black residents as they could.
So what happened as a result? Nothing, according to the North Carolina Office of Archives and History no action was taken.
The white supremacists proceeded to consolidate their power, and the incident was laid to rest and all but forgotten.
Again, the question must be asked, how was America great for these people?
And again the question is answered: no it was not.
So don’t ever say “Make America Great Again,” when America was never great to begin with.
Q Russell is sophomore journalism major from Charlotte, North Carolina.