Balboa Park

America Divided: 30+ San Diegans React to the Same 7 Words

The phrases Black Lives Matter and Make America Great Again have become such big rallying cries in America. NBC 7 asked dozens of San Diegans to react to both. Here are their responses.

NBC Universal, Inc.

From the wide gap between sides on the political spectrum to views on racial justice protests over the summer and to people at odds over wearing a mask -- America is arguably more divided than ever before.

NBC 7 wanted to find out just how far apart Americans really are and if the distance between us might be smaller than it appears. The goal is to see how people who live, work and play in the same city feel about the same seven words.

In order to do so, an NBC 7 news crew headed to Balboa Park, set up some cameras and a microphone stand, and asked people to react to two signs that have seemed to divide the country -- two phrases on complete opposite ends of the political spectrum: 

"Make America Great Again" and "Black Lives Matter."     

More than 30 San Diegans agreed to go on camera. NBC 7 didn't reveal the phrases until after we started rolling and the immediate reactions were across the spectrum –laughter, hand gestures, expressive faces. Some just walked away without saying a word.

Everyone NBC 7 interviewed knew both phrases well, but that didn't mean they knew what to say.

“I can’t even articulate what I want to say because there’s so much that goes around this one comment or statement,” said Bryan Delacruz.

“I don’t know why it just made me nervous when you pulled that out,” said a young woman when we revealed the Black Lives Matter sign. “I don’t know why. I think because I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing.”

For the Make America Great Again sign - the reactions were instant.

“It’s a little triggering,” said Heather Munoz. “It makes me think of Trump, like not in a good way.”

“Nauseous,” said Paul Colarik.

“Unfortunately we have somebody in the White House who’s taken our country and turned it into a slogan that makes no sense and gotten people to buy into it and it’s really upsetting, just awful,” said Jay Kerzner.

“Make it great again?” asked Jenny Trickett. “No, that’s a joke.”

“I agree with that statement but it depends on the context,” said Chris Casafranca.

"I think the person that uses that statement a lot really is not interested in making America great again," said Pat Tedford.

“Heck yeah!” said Mark Patterson, high-fiving his college-age daughter when we revealed the MAGA sign. “Make America Great Again! I’m on board with that!”  

“Times Two!” said Bella Patterson.

“I’m on board with getting our economy going again,” said Mark. “Getting people back to work, making our overall country great again.”

Their opinion attracted the attention of one passerby, who rode his bike in front of our cameras mid-interview and shouted “you guys are disgusting! Disgusting!”

The Pattersons however were unfazed.

“That’s part of why I want to make America great again,” said Mark. “I’m saddened that people don’t respect people of opposite opinions or beliefs.”

Our Black Lives Matter sign also got people talking.

“Why are we debating whether or not my life matters?” asked Diamonique Massey. “It matters. Point blank. Period.”

“As a Christian, it deeply saddens me that people who claim to be Christians don’t believe this is a true issue in our society,” said Suzanne Moss.

“That’s nice,” said Leroy Jones. “But ALL lives matter.”

“I totally agree that Black lives matter,” said Mark Patterson. “And I agree that all lives matter.

Stating Black lives matter almost makes it more of an issue,” said his daughter Bella.

“White people - they just don’t understand,” said a young man who only gave us his first name, Kevin. “Black people just want to feel heard and acknowledged and recognized, and white people are making this about them. And it’s just sad.”

“All lives matter is not a thing,” said Samantha Robbins. “Because all lives doesn’t matter until Black lives matter.”

“I would say all lives matter,” said Scott Sallinger. “I think this phrase makes people think there’s only two choices that they have in this world, which causes segregation."

The BLM sign also got a lot of people thinking.

 “I was about to say all lives matter,” said a young woman who just gave us the name Stacy. “But that’s not what I believe in. Of course, Black lives matter.”

“I caught myself saying all lives matter,” said Jeri Webb. “But all lives aren't the ones struggling right now.”

Some weren't afraid to be honest.

“I think when I first heard that,” said Pat Tedford. “I wasn’t sure what that meant, but as I’ve educated myself as to try to understand what this movement is, I really believe in that statement, that Black lives matter.”

It's like most folks made up their minds on both issues, but weren't used to talking about why.

“It’s a good strategy not to say anything,” said Vinay Jyothi after his interview. “It really forces the person doing this to go on and on.”

“Oh my God I can’t believe I’m still talking,” said Evan Peterson to himself in the middle of a response.

It's a funny thing, when we stop talking. And just. Listen.

“Thank you for asking,” said Sallinger. “I appreciate it.”

While more than 30 people agreed to go on camera, it's important to note a number of people did not want to participate.

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