Why Wearing a MAGA Hat is Problematic No Matter What You Believe


The amount of moderate garbage we have to tolerate as people of color is astounding — but what’s more astounding is that people still don’t seem to get that there is no middle ground when the issue at hand is whether or not certain groups deserve life, liberty, and justice. It is crystal clear to me (as it was to Dr. King) that no amount of outrage or atrocities will change the fact that white moderates value order over justice and comfort, and over the inconvenience of dismantling the hierarchical structures that they benefit from. My grandma used to say “no hay mas ciego como el que no quiere ver” (there is no one blinder than those who do not want to see). At this point — with the stakes as high as they are for people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals — the people pretending to be blind have the privilege to do so and the audacity to tell us to find common ground with the people who are supporting an administration that is harming our families.

Joel Stein’s LA Mag Op-Ed The Time I Wore a MAGA Hat to Lunch at Café Gratitude, chronicles the brave tale of a white dude wearing a hate symbol to a popular LA restaurant chain as some kind of edgy “research” on “political tribalism” for an upcoming novel. Political tribalism has been a hot button issue based on the idea that personal beliefs and cultural divisions based on intersectional identities are ruining the singular American identity. Mostly it’s just used to call people snowflakes for asserting their rights and belittle them for having the gall to be anything other than a heterosexual, middle-class white person. Why can’t it be like the good ol’ days where we just ignored the injustices faced by LGBTQ+, women, and POC amirite? But most of all these claims of tribalism are a way to gaslight marginalized groups and blame them for the lack of partisanship — and thus this country’s inability to move forward.

Stein dislikes tribalism, so he decided to wear something offensive where liberals might look at him and be instantly provoked or prove that they really aren’t that tribal. He wanted to investigate as to why some liberals are so mean and how Trump supporters can still manage to be nice, despite the constant harassment they get from liberals — oh, how tragic!

The majority of the story is spent assuming everyone around him is judging him along with musings on how nicely he — a white man— was treated in Texas and Florida. He goes on about this for four full paragraphs. He then goes on to express his desire for everyone to be civil to each other, no matter what their “beliefs” are. Both his “Black” and “Mexican waiter” turn out to be nice and validated his idea that nice bigots exist too! So all was right with the world and in the end, he thought proved that liberals are just as nice as Trump supporters. When in reality he proved nothing at all.

Much of the discussion surrounding political tribalism has come about because white people are realizing they might finally be held accountable for centuries of genocide, slavery, and systemic prejudice. Or at the very least, they’ll have to share neighborhoods with Mexicans and bathrooms with Trans people  all things they seem unwilling to do. To place equal blame on both sides for not coming together, negates the centuries of violence POC, queer and gender non-conforming people have experienced in the U.S. To say liberals are angry and unwilling to compromise would be accurate because a majority of the people in the “liberal” or “democratic” category are the very people being targeted by Trump’s policies and why shouldn’t they be angry?

According to Pew Research, Black, Latino, and Asian Americans are overwhelmingly Democratic and the GOP is a white as ever. Suggesting that current party and social divisions are not caused by the policies supported by Trump supporters, but are instead caused by people just refusing to find the good in each other is wildly problematic and outright incorrect. MAGA supporters are shooting up schools, burning Black churches, and kidnapping immigrants at the border on top of protecting the institutions in place that make those things possible. Where is the civility there?

MAGA is a hate symbol that is used to suppress and intimidate, furthermore, it is outrageous that bigotry is being treated like a political stance that should be respected. But the most infuriating thing is the suggestion that neutrality forms some type of moral high ground that MAGA lovers are winning at for being nice. Tayari Jones said it best in her Time article There is Nothing Virtuous About Finding Common Ground.

When we revisit our shameful past, ask yourself, Where was the middle? Rather than chattel slavery, perhaps we could agree on a nice program of indentured servitude? Instead of subjecting Japanese-American citizens to indefinite detention during WWII, what if we had agreed to give them actual sentences and perhaps provided a receipt for them to reclaim their things when they were released? What is halfway between moral and immoral?”

The problem isn’t politics or political tribalism, the problem is MAGA doesn’t believe that people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and black and brown immigrants, deserve to exist. A MAGA hat is symbolic action and everyone who wears it knows exactly what it stands for. The politics of MAGA might form a conceptual problem for white cis upper and middle-class people, but for the rest of us, it’s a prejudice that impacts every facet of our lives. When I see a MAGA hat I fear for my life, my heart rate goes up, my hands sweat, I want to leave, I don’t know if they will try to hurt me or not. Nearly everyone I know has been harassed or knows someone who has been told “go back to Mexico!” “speak English!” “you people don’t belong here!” “fucking wetback!” “beaner!”This isn’t an issue of civility, it’s an issue of people downplaying and gaslighting a population that refuses to bend to the resurgence of fascism. If that makes us mean, then so be it.

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