As a Black woman, “Make America Great Again” terrifies me. When America was supposedly great, referencing romanticized imagery of the ‘40s and ‘50s, Black bodies hung from the magnolia trees like strange fruit. Blacks back then went to separate schools, used separate drinking fountains, and ate at the back of the restaurant where they could not be seen. They were refused equal pay, equal education, and equal opportunities to work. Or, as Trump declares to his primarily white supporters, when addressing Blacks: “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, and you have no jobs.”
His statements erase the amazing strides that Blacks have accomplished, returning them to being viewed in the same ways that they were when “America was great.” Today, we have Black neurosurgeons, Black Supreme Court judges, Black Secretaries of State, even a Black President of the United States. Yet Trump and his supporters would rather erase such accomplishments from history and put Blacks back in their place.
Trump gives voice to some whites that view Blacks as below them based upon their skin color. This ideology is called white supremacy ideology, a belief in the superiority of the white race and the belief that Blacks are inferior and therefore whites should have power, position and wealth over Blacks. This ideology has been powerfully influential in shaping America’s culture, values, and economic and political systems. The relationships that America creates with people of color reveal how white America’s cultural, political, and economic systems reinforce a white supremacy ideology that is still present in current presidential discussions. Some whites perceive their privileged position, power, and wealth as their inalienable rights and refuse to acknowledge that it was created from the exploitation of Blacks. Whites who hold this belief feel threatened by socioeconomic advancements made by Black and brown people. Trump speaks to their fear.
Trump revitalized a movement to delegitimize Obama, the first Black President; by saying he was not an American citizen. Trump’s birther ideas undermine our President and our democracy. White fears, which Trump gives voice to, continue to grow among his supporters as technology eliminates many blue color jobs. The loss of blue-collar jobs, accelerated by the recent recession, resulted in virtually gutting the middle class. It has left behind few low- and high-paying technical jobs, with working-class white Americans now having to compete in the scarcity against people of color.
To many people, Obama represents change and hope for everyone in America. Blacks hoped his presidency would allow them to move beyond the daily struggles of oppression, marginalization, and inequality. For many whites, he represented a positive paradigm shift in power from white supremacy to equal access to power. The combination of the recession and technology that eliminated jobs fuel racial anger among some whites and a resurgence of white supremacy coalitions. Whites find themselves struggling along with minorities for survival, challenging the notion of their belief of supremacy. Many white Americans may feel they are losing their edge over Black and Brown people in a economy, and that Donald Trump is their champion who will restore them to full privilege and advantage in an America that is great again.
At first glance for some people, the endorsement of Donald Trump from neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups might seem to be isolated cases. However, Trump’s immigration policies send anti-immigrant supporters a clear signal that he understands their core angers and fears about America being taken over by minorities. Trump’s plans for the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and putting an end to birthright citizenship is radical, but validates the hearts of racist America.
Trump and his supporters work toward the propagation of white supremacy ideology. Accepting Trump as a champion for white supremacy ideology will only lead to further racial oppression and marginalization, resulting in violent conflict and a divided nation. White supremacy ideology erases racism by making it normal. It forwards the belief that whites are naturally and culturally superior, deserving more than Blacks, while disavowing all evidence that this is not true.
Trump supports the cancerous tendrils of racism that eat at the moral fiber of equality and empowered diversity that strengthens our nation. We are stronger together, a greater America than what used to be. We need to embrace the value of diversity, to bring everyone in our nation in unity, rather than denying their worth as Americans.