Why ‘Make America Great Again’ Is an Insult (and a Lie), Explained


Who is Krystal Lake?

Krystal Lake is a 22-year-old New York City woman who recently received death threats after wearing a hat with the words “America was never great”—an obvious turn on Donald Trump’s “Make America great again” presidential campaign slogan.


She’d also be my spirit animal if that position wasn’t already occupied by King T’Challa.

Death threats? Really?

Yes. She wore the hat while on a work shift at Home Depot. Someone took a picture of it, shared it to social media, and it apparently became another thing on the long list of “Things Trump Supporters Are Angry About.” Right behind “Muslims,” “science,” “logic,” “Obama,” “Frosted Mini-Wheats,” “actual explanations about why a border wall is an illogical, ridiculous and patently insane suggestion from a cat turd with a coconut’s comb-over,” and “Draymond Green.”

I see. So, if Krystal Lake is your spirit animal, you must agree with her in some way.

I didn’t say that. But I do appreciate the audacity of going to work in an area that’s apparently rife with Trump supporters and wearing that hat. That’s some high-level trolling there. And not the bad trolling, where a person inserts him- or herself into an argument to either derail the conversation or insult the people having the conversation. But the good trolling, where you do something that you know will anger idiots and expose the anger—and the thought process behind the anger—as fruitless and hypocritical.

Well, how do you personally feel about America? Would you call it great?

Not exactly. Referring to a place as large and complex and context-ridden as America as “great” is actually quite limiting. Because it’s much more than that. Can it be great at times? Of course! But can it suck at times? Definitely.


It’s basically a big-ass Cheesecake Factory menu. Sure, there are some legitimately delectable and creative items in there. But there’s also some s—t that should have been left in 1933.

I will say this, though: Perhaps it’s not “great” now, but it’s greater now, in 2016, than it ever has been. There’s never been a time when the country was more closely aligned with the ambitions of its creation. When our government was better positioned to protect the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of each of its citizens and not just straight, Christian men without much melanin.  


And this is why, for many of us, Trump’s “Make America great again” is both a lie and an insult.

How so?

It’s a lie for the reasons I just articulated. It suggests that a mythical greatness 1) actually existed and, 2) if it did exist, is aspirational. And it makes that suggestion despite the fact that today’s America is, by every objective measure, a better place to live than 1976 America. And 1956 America. And 1936 America. And 1916 America. And … you get my point.


And it’s an insult because it neglects to consider the fact that from, like, the first 400 years of America’s existence to maybe the last 40 minutes, if you were a black person or a woman or a queer person or a person who happened not to be Christian, your rights were severely limited. (And if you were a black person, you went the first couple hundred years or so without having any, and then the next hundred years after that with airplane-mode rights.)

The insult becomes a legitimate threat when you consider that maybe that history isn’t being neglected. That maybe it’s the primary consideration. That maybe the latent impetus behind “Make America great again” is a want to return to that America. The Mad Men-era America, where white men could do whatever the hell they wanted. Or perhaps the Underground-era, where white men could own whomever the hell they wanted.


Ironically, Trump and his supporters are actually in a prime position to make America as great as they think it used to be.


Yup! He could drop out of the race. And then they could all move to Canada.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas.com. He is also a contributing editor at Ebony.com. He lives in Pittsburgh and he really likes pancakes. You can reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com.