Last week, a group of boys engaged with a Native American man beating a tribal drum. The exchange was caught on video. And watching that video, each of us saw what we wanted to see. Because the divisions in this country are so deep they’re fossilized.
Still, some things in that video cannot be disputed–no matter what angle or how extended the cut is. These boys, who attend a religious school, were there on a school trip protesting against a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. Several of these boys were wearing red MAGA hats, a hat that has become synonymous with white nationalism and racism. Several were doing a “tomahawk chop.” Several were laughing.
When I saw that video, I saw boys flaunting their entitlement and displaying toxic masculinity. It seemed to me like they were reflecting the white nationalism and racism that the hats on their heads have come to represent.
I sent out a tweet that read, “The red MAGA hat is the new white hood.” Right-wing pundits and anonymous trolls alike screamed for my head–literally and figuratively. My husband received death threats on his cell phone. Many demanded an apology.
Here’s the thing: I was right.
So, I won’t apologize to these boys. Or anyone who wears that hat. But I will thank them. I will thank them for lighting a fire underneath the conversation about systemic racism and misogyny in this country and the role President Donald Trump has had in cultivating it and making it acceptable.
Trump comes by his white nationalism honestly. Maybe even genetically. In 1927 his father Fred Trump was arrested along with six other men after a Klan parade in Jamaica, New York, aimed at keeping Catholic immigrants out of America. While the younger Trump denies his father was ever there, arrest records are clear, and a news report of the time reported that all seven men arrested were “berobed.” It appears irrefutable that the father of the President of the United States was in the Ku Klux Klan.
Fred Trump’s racist practices in his residential real estate holdings caused iconic American songwriter Woody Guthrie to write about the “color line” that “Old Man Trump” brought into the neighborhood. And by the time the President took over management of the business, multiple lawsuits were filed against it for racial bias in housing.
And by the time he ran for President, Trump bleated themes that would have appealed to those same Klan marchers who were arrested with his father in 1927: Build a wall to keep immigrants out. Ban Muslim immigrants. America first.
Make America Great Again.
David Duke endorsed him (which Trump initially refused to disavow). Racists flocked to his rallies. And they proudly put on the red hats.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying everyone who voted for Trump is a racist. I’m saying that everyone who proudly wears the red hat identifies with an ideology of white supremacy and misogyny. Everyone who proudly wears those hats gives a tacit endorsement for the hatred and the violence we’ve seen these past few years.
When the Unite the Right chanted “Jews will not replace us,” the Red Hats were there.
When young children were being torn from their families at the border and forced to represent themselves in immigration court, the Red Hats were there.
When Muslims were banned from coming to live in this country, the Red Hats were there.
When there was a white lives matter rally, the Red Hats were there.
When black protestors were assaulted at a Trump rally, the Red Hats were there.
When the Proud Boys teamed up with Neo Nazis, the Red Hats were there.
When a terrorist mailed pipe bombs to prominent political leaders and activists, many of whom were Jewish, the Red Hats were there.
And when a boys school sent a group of students to protest against a women’s right to bodily autonomy, the Red Hats were there.
This isn’t like wearing the hat of a sports team you love. These hats symbolize hate. They signal to others an embrace of policies of discrimination, oppression and exclusion.
The Red Hats are demanding an apology from me for a tweet that compares red hats to white hoods. And maybe it isn’t the same. After all, years ago, racists like Fred Trump put on the hood to hide. There is no hiding with the Red Hats. Only pride.
Still, you know what? I am sorry. I’m sorry for the decades and decades of oppression and abuses people of color have faced in this country. I’m sorry that as part of a privileged white majority we did not stop this Administration from happening. I’m sorry to those who have suffered at the hands of the Red Hats and the policies their leadership implements. See, I’m not apologizing to the Red Hats. I’m apologizing for them.
Part of making amends with our history is making sure it doesn’t repeat itself. I will not be silent. I will not be intimidated. Everywhere these hateful acts occur, everywhere I see a Red Hat stop a person of color from thriving, everywhere I see a Red Hat get between a woman and her body, a person needing asylum and the safety we can offer, a child and her parents–I’ll be there. I’ll be loud. And I know I’m not alone.
Sorry not sorry.