The other day my dear friend, Melissa Fairman aka the HRremix, talked about her gut reactions when she sees someone wearing a MAGA or “Make America Great Again” hat. Reading her piece, coupled with the recent actions of the Covington Kentucky Catholic boys in D.C. during Dr. King’s holiday weekend, wearing MAGA hats and counter-protesting the March for Life demonstrators made me want to add to the conversation.
I am not about to go on a lengthy diatribe about those boys – they had a right to be in D.C., they had a right to counter protest, they had a right to wear those MAGA hats however, they were not there as innocent young boys trying to exercise their American born privileged rights as the media and many others are suggesting. They were there to be agitators. There are other videos of them “cat-calling” women as they walked by and being little jerks. I have already said publicly that if those boys were black with Colin Kapernick hats on doing the EXACT SAME THING as the Covington Boys – they would have been labeled “thugs”, “monsters”, “troubles makers” and much worse – they would not have been given the benefit of the doubt.
Let’s move on…
The MAGA hat evokes strong emotions. Some feel pride. Others feel pain. Kanye West said it makes him feel empowered. Millions of other people feel the same way. It definitely empowered those Kentucky kids in D.C. that day. But why does it cause pain though? Well for one, look at the man who created it. He has said that white nationalists are good people, has been slow to denounce racism, has said he will grab women by their pussies, he’s led one of the most hateful presidential election campaigns in recent memory, he is hell bent on repealing everything that the former president (who happens to be black) established, and for the first time in 60 years – he has no senior black staff member at the White House. He is a petty man – that is well documented. His VP hates gays.
So, if you are a person of color or any minority group, it should be easy to see why the hat represents hate and is painful to see.
Let’s leave MAGA alone for a moment, if you are black in HR (and life), at some point you will have to confront racism at work. If not from the workers then from the bosses – oh yeah, bosses (managers, directors, presidents and owners) are racists too. Bosses will say, “Don’t hire anyone darker than a brown paper bag” or “I don’t want nobody with a weird African sounding name” or “There hair is nappy, I don’t want no nappy-headed workers here.” I am not making this up either and these are not stories from my mother or grandmother, these things happened as recently as 2018!
At the General Motors plant, white workers hung nooses in the locker room and signs with the word “nigger” on them – that news broke last year too mind you. Here in Memphis, we found out that a warehouse was not letting warehouse workers (mostly black and latino) use certain water fountains and restrooms – essentially making them whites only water fountains and washrooms. Point being, racism is alive and well.
If you are black, you are going to deal with racism at work sooner or later, either aggressive racism, passive aggressive racism or micro aggressions. For people of color, there has never been a better time to be who you are in America than during the Obama Presidency. So, when a 70 year old privileged AF white man says “Make America Great Again” at what point in history is he referring? The 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s? None of which were great for ALL Americans but there is one subset of Americans that can literally go back to any time in history and they will be just fine – the white men.
Make America Great Again, is a dogwhistle. It’s a code for separatism. It’s a code for exclusion. It’s a code for divisiveness. It’s code for you don’t belong. And it has become code for white separatism and supremacy. No intelligent and inclusive minded person should be proud to wear that hat – it is the modern-day klukluxklan white hood. So just like the tweet posted above so accurately puts it, “don’t tell me that red hat is not a symbol for white supremacy and hate.”
In a POC HR Practitioner chat group, someone asked how should they handle employees coming to work with MAGA hats on? I felt bad for them, because I know they really want to slap the hats off those fools’ heads and fire their asses. But you can’t. Remember how happy we were with Obama won? I saw more Obama t-shirts then any other President in my life. So we have to realize that there are some who are just as proud of 45 as we were/are of 44.
Many of us advised the person to reference their handbooks and policy manuals and unless someone complained or if there was an incident there wouldn’t be anything they could do about it.
If any one out there reading this has to deal with MAGA hat wearers at work, hopefully, the employee manual says, “clothing should be free from political slogans, graphic images, profanity and any other offensive language or pictures”, that way you can tell that person (with joy in your heart) to take that shit off or go home!