Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan was Make America Great Again. He plastered the MAGA acronym on red hats that his supporters wear with pride. What could possibly go wrong with a seemingly innocent campaign prop?
Fast forward to 2019. My friends and I attended the Myrtle Beach, SC Women’s March in Chapin Park on January 19. About an hour before the march ended, we noticed a young man wearing a MAGA hat.
Our radar immediately went up as we watched him move through the crowd taking photos and conducting on camera interviews with attendees. The police were also watching. Would he start trouble? Was he carrying a concealed weapon?
His presence was disturbing. Why? Because of the red MAGA hat. Wearing one elicits a visceral reaction from those of us who see Trump and his devout followers as a threat to America. For more on this phenomenon, please see this Washington Post Jan. 25 article.
On the same day in Washington DC another event took place at the Lincoln Memorial. The Indigenous People’s March was ending as a small group of Black Hebrew Israelites began to spew hatred at Native Americans, other African Americans and a group of white students from a Catholic high school. The students especially were targeted. Most wore red MAGA hat.
The Native Americans and African Americans decided not to engage the religious group and simply walked away, ignoring the rhetoric hurled at them. But not the white students.
Perhaps feeling empowered by their MAGA hats, they chose to close ranks and, with the approval of their teacher, loudly sang school fight songs trying to drown out the verbal abuse. The number of students was about 200, the number of Black Hebrew Israelites was 5. The racial tension between the two groups escalated.
Nathan Phillips, an Omaha elder, began playing his drum, singing Native American songs and leading his people away from the situation. The students began making tomahawk chops, whooping and imitating Native American dances they probably picked up watching old western movies. It clearly showed their lack of respect.
One student, Nick Sandmann, chose to stand in the way and block Mr. Phillips as he tried to make his way up the steps of the memorial. He stared the elder down with a smirk on his face and an air of superiority. And he was wearing a red MAGA hat, now a symbol of racism and entitlement.
Mr. Phillips said the action he took was to try to diffuse a racially charged situation between the students and the Black Hebrew Israelites. He described the students as a mob and said he was afraid wading into the group of students, but persevered because he wanted to lead his people to safety.
Sandmann later issued his own statement saying he was the one trying to diffuse the situation, one that he and his fellow students created because they refused to walk away and ignore the taunts. He said he and his family have received death threats and blames everything on the Black Hebrew Israelites.
So, the students created a situation and then blamed someone else when it turned bad. Sounds very much like what Trump does, doesn’t it?
The right-wing media now says the students are being vilified and instead we should applaud this young man’s initiative. And, President MAGA has invited them to the White House.
David Hogg and his fellow students at Stoneman Douglas High School watched as their classmates were gunned down last year. They immediately decided thoughts and prayers were not enough and were compelled to become activists for gun sense legislation. The right-wing media vilified them and they received death threats. They did not get an invitation to the White House. But then again, they don’t wear red MAGA hats.
Could the media have been more objective in their reporting and more carefully analyzed the entire situation? Of course. However, upon re-evaluating what happened no one can dispute that the red MAGA hat was the trigger.
The students chose to stand and fight instead of walking away, which showed the world their ignorance and immaturity. These students feel they were unfairly targeted because of their hats. Now they've had a tiny taste of what it feels like to be a person of color in America today.
But, then, they can always take off their hats.
Susan Hutchinson, who for many years worked for a clinical diagnostics company, is now retired. She now writes and actively works for causes in which she believes.