I’m weary with every red-hatted someone who walks past me at the grocery store. I’m afraid that if I take a closer look, I’ll be face to face with four words in white print, confirming the unease I sensed at first glance. I’m scared of every blue flag that is printed with those same four words, rippling violently through the wind while riding on the back of a red pick up truck. Make America Great Again. These four words adopted by Donald Trump and the injustices they represent have made me fearful of the very colors that are supposed to symbolize pride and hope — the same colors that represent our nation and our flag. I would like to say that this fear is a new feeling that developed with the use of those four words. But that would be a lie. The way my stomach drops every time I see red and blue lights flashing in my rearview mirror is not a new feeling. I’ve been scared of those lights my whole life. I’ve always worried that they would be the last lights I would ever see. This fear has been heightened these past four years, but it is not new. This fear is rooted in the oppression Black people have suffered from since the foundation of this country. As a Black woman, I am hopeful that this fear will subside with the results of the recent election, but this country continuously perpetuates its systemically oppressive roots so us marginalized people know better than to think anything will change. 

Since the anxiety-filled trainwreck that was election week, I keep hearing how America needs to heal. People keep saying that our country is more divided than ever before, and we have a lot of work to do to get our country back to what it was four years ago before Trump took office. But why would we do that? What would we be going back to? Other than living a pandemic-free life, there is not a moment in the history of this country that we need to revert back to. How can we heal a country that was founded on the exclusion of so many people? Saying that we need to heal is like saying we need to make America great again. America was never great, and America was never a safe and whole place. Anyone who is not a white, straight, cis gendered, able bodied, middle or upper class man has always suffered. Racism, sexism, islamophobia, transphobia and homophobia are just a few ideologies this country embraced since its beginning. These ideologies will continue to exist if we keep pretending like everything was okay before 2016. When the fifty states are all mapped out and colored red or blue, it is easy to see how divided the country is. But the inequities marginalized groups of people have faced in America are not always nicely laid out on paper and easily defined, and just because the oppression is invisible to some, doesn’t mean it is nonexistent. 

I can agree that these last four years have been brutal. The Trump Administration has brought out the ugly in America. But the key is “brought out”. Trump was only as successful as the people who voted for and supported him allowed for him to be. His hateful principles are not unique; they did not just appear out of thin air. If people did not agree with his values, he would not have been able to secure the presidency in the first place. Yes the families that were lost and separated under the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement need to be found and brought back together, but how will we get rid of the hateful ideologies that put them in this situation in the first place? Reverting back to how things were before these past few years, or “healing” will only leave these hateful beliefs hidden with no way of knowing who possesses them, or when or if they will come out again. This leaves anyone the power to reinstate the harm we are trying to get rid of.

While I am scared every time I see Trump’s infamous “Make America Great Again” phrase on a lawn sign, I am also filled with rage. I am angry that Black people have been suffering for so long. I am exhausted after reading countless tweets defending his actions. I am frustrated to find out how so many people who I once trusted and called my friends are eager to vote against basic human rights, my rights. I feel hopeless because as I sit here and write this piece, and think about the injustices this country was built on, I’m having a hard time imagining what a semi-just society would look like. A country where everyone is loved and accepted? That seems impossible. I do know that until politicians are able to face the truth and own up to the corrupt mess that is America, we will never grow to be the country marginalized individuals deserve to live in. America needs to wake up to its multitude of faults and work to become the great place it has claimed to be. I am sick of being afraid and I am sick of being angry.

 

MiC Columnist Maria Patton can be reached at pattonma@umich.edu

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