Considering the Fact

Staff Writer: Alexandria Weaver

Make America Great Again. The saying that has been repeated time and time again since Trump’s announcement of him running for president. The question is, however, when was America ever great, especially for everybody?

the American Way

The 50s were about the “American Dream” meanwhile African-Americans did not have rights yet. Photo Courtesy: Black Time Travel

Some people, the majority of them white, refer back to the late 40s and 50s. The time period after WWII where there was an economic boom, but also the time period where racism was blindingly blatant, and segregation was far from being over.

So, was it great because their world was still racist? Was it because their world didn’t have to include minorities? If it was truly great it would’ve been great for EVERYONE, yet it is a fact that was not the case.

Recapping American history, the pattern is glaringly obvious to everyone except the “majority.”

Starting with the “discovery” of America by Christopher Columbus when he “sailed the ocean blue in 1492.” Many people credit Columbus as the “greatest discoverer of all time” but how can that be the case if he didn’t even find what he was looking for?

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus landing on the island of Hispaniola, etching 1728. Photo Courtesy: History Today

Columbus was searching for a westward way to India and stumbled across what is now the Caribbean instead. Since the people that were there were brown, like the people of India, he believed he made it. He died believing so.

Once it was identified that he didn’t in fact land in India, he became this great idol in Europe for discovering new land. How new is it if there were civilizations already there, so advanced people to this day cannot figure out how they worked?

As colonization began and more Europeans embarked on the land they claimed as their own, their presence alone killed millions due to the diseases brought along with them. Wars broke out because these Europeans felt entitled to the land, new to them but not new to the Natives, who had been on the land for possibly centuries.

Imagine killing people for something that wasn’t even yours in the first place and considering yourself great.

When gold was discovered in northern Georgia, an event that is known as the Trail of Tears occurred, which was the forced relocation of 16,000 indigenous people off their ancestral home lands 1,200 miles away to what is now Oklahoma in the dead of winter. Four thousand of them died of hunger, hypothermia and disease.

How great could they be to force people off their own land because they wanted their gold?

Trail of tears

The Indian Removal Act was signed by President Andrew Jackson in 1835. Photo Courtesy: American Indian COC

Throughout the 16th – 19th centuries, European countries including England, France and Spain, began the trading of their fellow humans. However, they didn’t see them as such. They, because of their “lack” of wardrobe, skin color and “abnormalities” were considered inferior.

Yes, these Europeans did not start slave trading. In fact, Africans also practiced slave trade between their own people, however, it never left home.

Transatlantic slave trade

Transatlantic slave trade, segment of the global slave trade that transported between 10 million and 12 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th century. Photo Courtesy: Encyclopedia Britannica

These Europeans took these people from their native land to make money off of their abilities on continents that technically did not belong to them. Of the more than 10 million enslaved Africans to eventually reach the Western Hemisphere, just 388,747—less than four percent of the total—came to North America. This was dwarfed by the 1.3 million brought to Spanish Central America, the 4 million brought to British, French, Dutch, and Danish holdings in the Caribbean, and the 4.8 million brought to Brazil.  

Here before the United States of America was a country but once it was founded, they weren’t even counted as a full person. The Three-fifths Compromise allowed a state to count three-fifths of each Black person in determining political representation in the House of Representatives..

As stated on AAREG, it was an early American effort to avoid the intersectionality of race, class, nationality and wealth for political control. Even when the law stopped the importing of new slaves in 1808, the south continued to increase its overall political status and electoral votes by adding and breeding slaves illegally.

The Civil War. An event that started well before the first rounds were shot. Feeling as though their right to own slaves was in jeopardy, especially considering the election of Abraham Lincoln, states including South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama and Georgia, seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States.

Civil War

The American Civil War (1861-1865) was fought between the Union and the Confederate states. Photo Courtesy: mycivilwar.com

Was the war started due to an issue of states’ rights. Yes, but what did the states want the right to do? Saying the war was fought over slavery doesn’t sound good morally and many people will try their hardest not to say that was the reason, nevertheless, you cannot deny the truth because the truth is too hard to swallow.

The Civil War started because the southern states wanted to have the right to own slaves, therefore, the Civil War was fought because of slavery.  It doesn’t sound so great does it?

The Emancipation Proclamation (1863) didn’t end slavery; it freed the slaves behind Confederate lines. This means the border states that were still in the Union that  owned slaves didn’t have to free them. The 13th Amendment (1865) abolished slavery across the nation and the 14th Amendment (1868) made these newly freed slaves citizens.

Sexism is prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination, typically against women based on sex. Misogynism is a dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice of women. The thought that women are inferior to men; only good for cooking, cleaning and making babies; not being smart enough to hold jobs such as doctors, lawyers or engineers, is sexist and misogynistic. Principles that kept this country ran by men and didn’t start to unravel until women got the right to vote in 1920 when the 19th Amendment was passed. 

Women's march

Dr. Anna Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League of Women Voters Photo Courtesy: Time Magazine

The women’s suffrage movement began in 1848 after the Seneca Falls Convention held in New York. For the next 50 years, woman suffrage supporters worked to educate the public about the validity of woman suffrage. Under the leadership of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other women’s rights pioneers, suffragists circulated petitions and lobbied Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to enfranchise women. 

Why did it take 143 years? It took 19 amendments to the United States Constitution for more than half of the U.S. population to get the right to vote. Ironically, the first woman to get elected to public office, Jeanette Pickering Rankin, was elected to the House of Representatives, for the state of Montana, in 1916; four years before all women got their suffrage.

However, more than 20 states have never had female governors. Forty-five presidents and none of them have been female. Some voters refuse to cast their vote for women because they do not believe women have the ability to lead.

That is not what greatness looks like.

The next movement for basic rights was a harsher battle to fight. The Civil Rights Movement actually began in the 1930s with the NAACP’s (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) campaign against lynching. The campaign combined widespread publicity about the causes and costs of lynching, a successful drive to defeat Supreme Court nominee John J. Parker for his white supremacist and anti-union views and then defeat senators who voted for confirmation, and a skillful effort to lobby Congress and the Roosevelt administration to pass a federal anti-lynching law. 

Brown v Board Education

The newspaper headline reads: “High court bans segregation in public schools.” Photo Courtesy: History.com

America had been legally and lawfully segregated in some form since the abolishment of slavery in 1865. The famous Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896 solidified the constitutionality of “separate but equal.”  It wasn’t until the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954 that the “separate but equal” mindset had a crack in its foundation when the Supreme Court justices unanimously deemed that different educational facilities for racial minorities is inherently unequal violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment; 58 years after the ending of slavery.

The Supreme Court finding it unconstitutional didn’t seem to matter. Many southern states continued to refuse African Americans, Mexicans, Asians, or any other race other than Caucasian inside the doors of their schools. It had to be mandated by President Eisenhower in 1957 with the enforcement of 1,200 members of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne to escort the nine brave students who were to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas to let them inside the building.

Once inside the school, each student was assigned a personal detail to accompany them throughout the halls for their protection. But that didn’t guard them from the slurs, the spit, the trash, the harassment in the bathrooms, or emotional turmoil those teenagers went through.

Elizabeth Eckford

Elizabeth Eckford facing racism and hatred head on and alone as she walks towards the doors of Little Rock High School. Photo Courtesy: History.com

The pace of desegregation was much too slow for many of the younger African Americans which began the many boycotts and sit-ins that took place throughout the 50s and 60s. Sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks, the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Dec. 1955-Dec. 1956) in which blacks refused to ride city buses in Montgomery, Alabama to protest segregated seating led to the Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional. This boycott set the tone for the rest Civil Rights Movement.  

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, the mother of the Civil Rights Movement. Photo Courtesy: Britannica

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, accompanied by approximately a quarter million people, took place on Aug. 28, 1963. It was there that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous I Have a Dream speech.

“When we allow freedom to ring- when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, Free at last, Great God almighty, We’re are free at last” – the late Dr. King.

March on Washington

The March on Washington, one of the biggest political statements in history. Photo Courtesy: NAACP

With the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, the Civil Rights Movement came to an end. Free at last: 100 years after slavery was abolished and only 55 years ago. “Free” at last.

Civil Rights Act

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Photo Courtesy: CBS San Francisco

Across the country yet another movement was taking place. For more than a century, farm workers had been denied a decent life in the fields and communities of California’s agricultural valleys. Child labor was rampant, and many workers were injured or died in easily preventable accidents. The average life expectancy of a farm worker was 49 years.

In 1962, Cesar Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association, later to become the United Farm Workers, the UFW to help improve their working conditions and wages. The Bracero (temporary worker imported from Mexico) Program, an informal arrangement between the United States and Mexican governments, became Public Law 78 in 1951. Started during World War II, as a program to provide Mexican agricultural workers to growers, it continued after the war. Over time, however, farm workers were able to call upon allies in other unions, in churches and in community groups affiliated with the growing civil rights movement to put enough pressure on politicians to end the Bracero Program by 1964.

NFWA

Cesar Chavez, center, and California farm workers in 1966. Photo Courtesy: The New York Times

Some people will try to say that these things are too far in the past to count. They may feel that since some of these wrongs have been rectified, it should no longer be held against them. But rectified by law and rectified by actions are two different things. America’s timeline is filled with hatred and racism and making statements such as “Make America Great Again” does nothing but prove that the hatred is still there.

Can America finally be made great? Perhaps, but it requires addressing and rectifying the deafly silent problems that still go on on a daily basis…

Comments

  1. #dope

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