“Make America Great Again” is a slogan coined by Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. Does “Make America Great Again” symbolize a return to an age when wages were higher and jobs more secure, or is it coded racial language longing for a time when people of color were barred opportunities by laws and tradition?
“The Greatest Generation” describes those who grew up during the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II. The year 1940 was the fulcrum of America in the 20th century, when the nation was balanced precariously between the darkness of the Great Depression on one side and the storms of war in Europe and the Pacific on the other. For blacks, the time and tenure of the “Greatest Generation” were flawed. Many of that generation, if not most of them, were racists who supported Jim and Jane Crow. Millions benefited from the GI Bill and VA/FHA housing programs while black and brown veterans were denied those same benefits of citizenship. At the time America was at its “greatest,” entrenched Jim Crow laws reigned.
Donald J. Trump is the personification of white privilege. Back when “America was great,” his father, Fred Trump, built an empire,uch of which was accumulated through federal housing programs. As soon as President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Federal Housing Administration in the 1930s, Fred Trump made use of its loan subsidies. Under the FHA, the elder Trump built an enormous real estate empire on a foundation that included state and federal loan subsidies. The greatest generation moved to suburbia and large suburban developments created by William Levitt. The “Levittowns” were built for returning World War II veterans but required by FHA lenders to be limited to those of “the Caucasian race.”
Black Americans have to get past partisan politics and see the institutional racism in both major parties when it comes to us. Truthfully, the undercurrent of Trump’s slogan is “let’s make whites great again.”
The 1944 GI Bill legislation helped returning veterans go to college and buy homes in the great postwar suburban land rush. Returning white World War II veterans spurred a population and housing boom driven in part by benefits from the GI Bill. Black veterans weren’t able to make use of the housing provisions of the GI Bill. Banks wouldn’t make loans for blacks’ mortgages and we were excluded from the suburbs by deed covenants.
Racism is basic and rudimentary in America. It’s a racial historical fact that the GI Bill helped millions of white World War II veterans adjust to civilian life with benefits that included low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans and financial support. African-Americans did not benefit as did European Americans. Blacks are owed benefits that enriched the “Greatest Generation.”
The Depression hit Americans hard, but African-Americans harder. By 1932, half of African-Americans were out of work. In some Northern cities, whites called for blacks to be fired from any jobs as long as whites were out of work. No question, blacks were regulated to “second-class citizenry” during the time the “Greatest Generation” was at its apex, an era in which America was home to widespread discrimination and segregation. During these good times, hundreds of thousands of returning African-Americans soldiers lost property through fragrant and deceptive foreclosure practices.
When are blacks going to admit that not only are we in a political abyss with Trump, but with the majority of Americans? Blacks singularly struggle to declare their human rights in the face of institutional racism and need to get beyond protest activities on to substantive laws and legislation. Black Americans are owed benefits of the GI Bill that helped foster a long-term boom in white wealth and are still living with the effects of that exclusion. We need to get paid not only debts of the “Greatest Generation” from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, but for centuries of barbaric brutality, humiliation and derogation. It’s morally imperative that the issue of slave reparations be addressed.
Call your congressional representative via 202-224-3121 to demand proper recompense now!
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.