Tessa Hughes is a journalism junior, KCPR.org editor and Mustang News opinion columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Joe Biden is the 46th Presidential-elect of the United States, with Kamala Harris by his side, and their victory is the first time in four years I have felt any ounce of pride to call myself an American.
Before this, I was embarrassed to say I was American because the man (if one can really call it that) that was leading us was hateful, bigoted and ignorant. The President is supposed to be a role model for citizens, but Donald Trump is far from it.
I hope the legacy he leaves behind will just be remembered as a disgraceful blip in our history. But unfortunately, in just four short years, Trump wreaked havoc on a variety of American issues and ideals.
The one that struck me most was how significantly he tarnished the image of the American flag. His campaign which ran with the infamous slogan “Make America Great Again,” was thought of as a way to tell his supporters that a vote for him was a vote to get America back on the incline.
But what does that mean?
Getting America back on the incline means stepping back into a time where racism was overt and acceptable. Millions of Americans that weren’t white were suppressed into the margins, forced into internment camps, and gerrymandered. White Americans were never forced to face the horrible actions they committed.
What makes those actions worse, is the fact that their lived experiences were erased in history as a way to validate and comfort white Americans.
To this day, Americans celebrate former slave owners and other men who caused so much irrevocable harm through statues, building names and other honors. Continuing to keep these names in circulation in a prideful manner is just another way to acquit their wrong-doings and invalidate the feelings of BIPOC and people of color.
The failure to condemn our nation’s history proves the lack of growth of our citizens. If our country was a grown adult that refused to own up to their mistakes and work to remedy them, they would be regarded as childish and immature, not hailed as superior.
This is just one way that Trump lied to his supporters in his message: he let them believe that America’s past was fine and one to be celebrated, not something to be ashamed of and work to progress from.
Ultimately, his “MAGA” message ended up losing its patriotic theme as Trump became more aggressive in his efforts. At Trump rallies, “Trump 2020” flags billowed in the wild alongside confederate flags, Blue Lives Matter Flags, and that’s right — the American flag. By including the American flag inside of his overall message, Trump eventually made the flag synonymous with his bigoted, small-minded ideals. What was intended on being patriotic became seen as nationalistic and made millions of American’s sick to their stomachs. Nationalism is widely viewed as racist and that is what the iconic stars and stripes are now regarded as.
Congratulations President Trump, you have made the American flag the new symbol of racism.
The thin blue line/Blue Lives Matter flag is even a reiteration of the American flag (which, might I add, is illegal to do) and has become the antithesis of the Black Lives Matter movement. Confederate and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags also heavily support the racist ideals of the South during the Civil War. By visibly incorporating the flag into his rallies alongside flags that embody hateful ideals, changing the way the American flag was perceived was inevitable.
Now, whenever I see people wearing the stars and stripes or merely have it displayed prominently, I assume they are proudly declaring themselves as racist. Celebrating the Fourth of July this year even felt dirty and it had nothing to do with the pandemic currently taking place.
Now that there will be a new President, I have hope that our country will reclaim the flag as a symbol for America, but even if that were to happen, it is years in the making. First, our country will have to work to rectify the ways it has oppressed marginalized communities. Second, it will have to no longer be displayed alongside other hateful symbols and messages. Lastly, it will have to be able to stand alone as patriotic and not nationlistic.
If these changes cannot occur the American flag will eventually go into the history books as Trump memorabilia. It will forever be seen as a symbol of “White America” over a unifying flag of freedom and hope for all.