People who wave the Confederate flag may say it’s about heritage, not hate. They may have convinced themselves that’s the only way the symbol should be interpreted. But in their hearts, they know how it’s being received no matter what they say they mean. When people say you’re purveyors of hate, that’s what you are and what you meant to do.
In theory, Make America Great Again (MAGA) is well-intended. What’s wrong with wanting to make America great? The problems start when you take a close look at “Again.” Ask a MAGA person when exactly "Again" refers to, and you’ll never get an answer. They may ramble about certain values they think America once had, but any probing on your part likely results in a blank stare.
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Let me help them narrow things down. If we pick the Declaration of Independence in 1776 as a starting point for America and don’t count the years that had enslavement, the Black Codes, or Jim Crow, we’ve eliminated any year before 1968. So it’s only within the past 54 years that America has been great, at least as far as racial equality as reflected by the nation's laws. Take away the years of pay inequality, mass incarceration, voter suppression, and homophobia; just like that, there aren’t any years left. What MAGA zealots mean by "Again" refers to a time period when they think America was great for them, which is a whole different thing.
It isn’t unusual for readers of my work to reply by identifying themselves as MAGA but insisting they aren’t racist and don’t hate anybody. That may be true, but you are still helping send the aggregate message of hatred and racism. A picture recently surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in a crowd of white people menacing six Black students trying to integrate a North Little Rock High School in 1958. Jones (who may or may not be MAGA) claims he was only there out of curiosity. But he added to the size of the mob that forced the Black students back down the school's steps. They didn’t integrate the school that day. Isn't it fair to presume Jones' presence help create fear and add to the threat, no matter his intent? That’s you, Mr./Ms. MAGA: You’re adding to the threats the mob project, despite your claim of innocence.
My MAGA correspondents often portray themselves as victims, much like their leader said in the speech where he announced his 2024 run for president. It’s true you are resented by many for self-identifying as a MAGA follower. Don’t delude yourself by claiming it’s because you’re conservative or value parental freedom, the right to life, or to protect the border. Despite claiming you want various types of freedom, what you want is the other thing: control.
The time has passed when you could claim MAGA was all about all-American values. You may not be a white supremacist, Neo-Nazi, or skinhead, but you freely associate with those who are. Like Jerry Jones, you watched it going on while saying and doing nothing. You don’t speak out against the worst of excesses, actually making excuses for what you’ve witnessed. If you’re still MAGA, don’t whine because you’re regarded with contempt outside your own circles. You brought it on yourself.
The good news is you have the opportunity to change. You can be a good American who looks out for the welfare of all its citizens, not just some of them. I’m not telling you not to be Republicans or to throw away any of your values. Recognize that the “Again” you revered wasn’t great for everyone. Strive for a future where freedom is a value that applies to everyone, not just those you like. Tout Make America Great (MAG)—then you’ll be appreciated with respect and appreciation. How about that?
This post originally appeared on Medium and has been edited and republished with author's permission. Read more of William Spivey's work on Medium.
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