Pearl, Mississippi had a racist Donald Trump billboard propped up at a nearby highway. Turns out, it was just some artsy kids making an ironic point. I think.
The sign on Highway 80 outside Pearl features President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” superimposed on a well-known Civil Rights-era image by photographer Spider Martin. The famous “Two Minute Warning” photo shows a group of protesters including Hosea Williams and John Lewis confronting state troopers moments before violence broke out on the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, in the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” conflict.
Residents were naturally confused, with many locals saying it was obviously racist. Gov. Phil Bryant agreed:
“It’s disappointing that this group would use this image as an attempt to divide the country,” said the governor.
The mayor of the town took a pretty sensible approach, saying he didn’t like it but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. He changed his tune a day later, though, and called the company for it to be taken down. The company agreed.
Ah, the company. Turns out the billboard was placed there by For Freedoms, an artist-run PAC that places art billboards all over the country. Here’s what one of the founders said to CNN:
There’s no single goal or intent behind the Pearl billboard, he said. It’s not irony or satire, anti-Trump or pro-Clinton. Using “Make America Great Again” was meant to prompt the question when was America great? he said. From there, he hopes it inspires conversation about the different ways the phrase can be interpreted beyond the campaign message.
Not sure how this furthers a conversation. If it had stayed longer, I assume the NAACP would have called for its removal, since everyone’s initial indication was this was put up by a Trump supporter who thought segregation was A-OK.
Obviously Jim Crow wasn’t a good part of American history, but Trump’s slogan was never intended to mean every single thing about American history is great. There are certainly pretty good parts of American history too.
It’s a valid point to say that racism in America used to really suck in the south, but I fail to see a nuanced piece of art that provokes deep discussion. It’s pretty much just a political talking point turned to a billboard.