If The Hoodie Conjures Up White Fears Of Violence, Imagine How The MAGA Hat Makes Black People Feel

YouTube (screenshot)
“You can neither divorce the context of Trump’s campaign nor his presidency from what the MAGA hat epitomizes.”
Recently, a group of white boys from Covington Catholic High School in Newport, KY were caught on video jeering, ridiculing and mocking an older Native American man as he drummed and sang in Washington DC. The boys had just attended the anti-abortion March for Life and were wearing red and white hats emblazoned with Donald Trump’s signature slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Videos of the incident posted to social media went viral and were the catalyst for fierce debate regarding who was in the wrong and whether or not the MAGA hats should’ve played a role in the ordeal. Prior to the confrontation with Nathan Phillips, the Native American elder, the boys had a run in with a group of Hebrew Israelites, who yelled, screamed and called the boys nasty names. Many use the antagonism of the Hebrew Israelites to justify the shameful behavior of the Covington boys. I don’t buy it.

After the original video caused a stinging rebuke of the boys behavior, other videos caused some to walk back their criticisms and become sympathetic to the boys to the point of even painting them as the victims. This demonstrated the penchant of Americans to always give white youth the benefit of the doubt and to allow them to be depicted as vulnerable children, who should be given a pass for youthful mistakes, something never afforded to Black children. For example, the same crowd that became sympathetic to the fact that the Hebrew Israelites may have provoked the tension and aggression of the Covington boys never saw Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice or Jordan Edwards as children. That crowd blamed 12-year-old Rice for his own death after being murdered by a cop for playing with a toy in a park. In a now infamous video, Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera blamed Martin for being profiled and murdered by George Zimmerman in 2012 for the crime of: wearing a hoodie. Rivera opined, “I think the hoodie was just as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.” He also said that those who wear hoodies are “stylizing themselves as gangstas.” Rivera’s advice for Black boys to “dress more appropriately” by not wearing hoodies was never mentioned by right wing pundits regarding the Covington boys who were dressed in hoodies and MAGA hats.

Just like a Black boy in a hoodie conjures up white fears of the violent proclivities of those who live that “gangsta” life Geraldo was talking about, the MAGA hat is no neutral symbol. It conveys a particular meaning to Black people and other marginalized groups that have been victimized by the policies, rhetoric and blatant disrespect of 46-1, the white supremacist occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
On a recent segment of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, I was double teamed by host Laura Ingraham, and thrice failed congressional candidate and former member of the Secret Service under the Obama presidency, Dan Bongino, who pimped his credentials in the administration of the nation’s first Black president to become a sycophant for the current Bigot-in-Chief. During the segment, to their complete shock, I declared that Donald Trump was an unrepentant racist and the MAGA hat represented all of the vitriolic bigotry that comes along with the notorious nazi apologist and p***y grabbing POTUS. They lost their minds when I likened the MAGA hat to a Ku Klux Klan hood. Their disingenuous response was typical for those who readily stereotype Black people by what they wear (i.e. hoodies and sagging pants), but give white people stylistic license to be themselves and not be judged by their fashion choices.
Laura and Dan refused to concede the obvious, that symbols are used to elucidate a particular meaning. Whether sounds, words, ideas, gestures, images or articles of clothing, symbols convey messages to those viewing or hearing. Just like a red octagon warns us to stop, a yellow light tells us to be cautious, a skull and crossbones warns us of poison, a white swoosh authenticates Nike products and a siren lets us know the police are nearby, the MAGA hat was produced and marketed to represent all things Trump. Those things include: racism, white supremacy, xenophobia, misogyny, sexual assault, Islamophobia, greed, lust and bigotry, to name a few. Pretending the hat is “just a piece of clothing” or merely a political symbol of conservatism is intellectually dishonest and insulting.
When you couple the racist symbolism of the hat with the rise in hate crimes and viral posting of videos depicting bigoted Trump supporters accosting, harassing and attacking Black people, it should be easy to see why the MAGA hat symbolizes a threat and makes a statement that the wearer embraces the ideals of a president who is hostile toward non white people. Therefore, while the disrespectful mocking and jeering of the Covington Boys was bad enough, the MAGA hats exacerbated the situation. As fellow pastor and Trump critic John Pavlovitz put it, “… all the president’s ideals are now sort of wrapped up in that one wearable symbol. No matter what one does, they have to understand that historically repressed communities or vulnerable communities now feel more under duress when they see those images …”
So, let me say it again for those in the back, the MAGA hat, like the Klan hood, represents anti-Black racial animus, bigotry, violence and white supremacy. It absolutely matters that it is associated with a man who won the presidency by spewing racist rhetoric, trying to delegitimize the nation’s first Black president with a racist birther narrative and kicking off his campaign saying Mexicans were rapists. It matters that, after taking office, the same president defended white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia as “very fine people,” derided Black women as “dogs” and “low IQ,” called African nations “s**t holes,” referred to Black athletes protesting injustice as “sons of bitches,” said all Hatians have AIDS and disrespected every Black woman in the White House press corps. You can neither divorce the context of Trump’s campaign nor his presidency from what the MAGA hat epitomizes. Just as the horrors of chattel slavery are embodied in the Confederate flag and the swastika is emblematic of the brutality of the Holocaust, the MAGA hat suggests that the wearer agrees with the vile bigotry wrapped up in Trumpism.
Nothing affirmed that point more than the 147 racist voicemails I received from white Trump supporting Fox News viewers after my appearance on Ingraham’s show. If the scores of hateful voicemails, emails and social media messages did nothing else, they proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that Black hating bigots love Trump and love their MAGA hats. The enraged reaction I received as a result of my MAGA hat critique and assessment of 50-5 was a signifier that those who believe America was great during some point in the past, when it was worse for Black people, have been emboldened to freely spew their racist vitriol in the public sphere by a president who is an unapologetic bigot.