Black History Message to President Donald Trump
By Kevin Palmer
The story of slavery is how the moral Blackness of white Americans forever stained Black History. Not even a slick campaign slogan can white-wash the Black stain of slavery from the American consciousness. America’s new president, Donald Trump, campaigned on the slogan, “Make America Great Again.” The slogan attempts to dismiss the very existence of slavery. Trump’s campaign slogan insinuates America was great even when slavery was a legal institution. Therefore, with a clear conscience, “Make America Great Again” gives white Americans hope and reason to celebrate. Conversely, for African Americans, the slogan is an offense because it belittles a history stained by slavery. In 2017, “Make America Great Again” means to African Americans what the 4th of July meant to Frederick Douglass in 1852.
Frederick Douglass was offended by the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebration. Douglass was an African American who escaped slavery in Maryland. In addition, he was a social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer and statesman. On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a speech in Rochester, New York, to a predominately white audience, titled, “The meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.” The thoughts and feelings he conveyed then about the Fourth of July celebration, are felt now by many African Americans about the slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Douglass said, “We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future.” He continued with the question, “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?” Similarly, does Donald Trump’s vision of a great America disperse privilege equally among whites, Blacks, minorities, and nonwhite immigrants?
Douglass goes on to say, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessing in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. My subject is American slavery. Above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions, whose chains are heavy and grievous. To forget them, to pass over their wrongs, would be treason most scandalous and shocking. I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked Blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Standing with God and the crushed bleeding slave, I will denounce slavery-the great sin and shame of America! America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.” Douglass foresaw men like Donald Trump who pre-tends slavery and Black men like Frederick Douglass never existed by declaring to, “Make America Great Again.”
Furthermore, Douglass asks the question, what to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? He answers, “A day that reveals to him more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heart-less; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.” Likewise, in 2017, what to the African American is your “Make America Great Again?” It is all that was previously mentioned.
In like manner, what to the nonwhite immigrant is your, “Make America Great Again?” To the question, Douglass answers, “You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere, to love one another; yet you notoriously hate (and glory in your hatred) all men whose skins are not colored like your own. Moreover, in 2017, persecution of nonwhite immigrants mocks the welcoming inscription on the Statue of Liberty which says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Douglass goes on to say, “You declare before the world, and are understood by the world to declare that you “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; and that among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and yet, you hold securely, in bondage a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.” Douglass admonishes, “The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie.” Mr. Trump, America has never been great.
Mr. President, acknowledge and embrace the past. America is not great until it has been great for all. Lead, exhort, and inspire America to live up to the principles of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and salutation inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. Make America great for all.
Kevin Palmer, Martinez, Ga. — (706) 231-1831