The simple slogan “Make America Great Again” has been a fixture of modern politics during the Trump era, but in a recent ABA Journal article, Jeffrey Omari, a visiting professor at Gonzaga University Law School, described the “MAGA” mantra as having a racist and sexist meaning.
The self-described progressive discussed an occasion when a student wore a MAGA hat to his class. Omari views the MAGA message as entailing racist and sexist ideology:
From my (progressive) perspective as a black man living in the increasingly polarized political climate that is America, MAGA is an undeniable symbol of white supremacy and hatred toward certain nonwhite groups.
For its supporters, MAGA indexes an effort to return to a time in American history when this country was “great” for some—particularly, propertied white men—but brutally exclusionary for others, most notably women and people of color. Recent statements by MAGA-supporting politicians such as Roy Moore have given this perspective added credence.
Thus, in that moment, I was unsure whether the student was directing a hateful message toward me or if he merely lacked decorum and was oblivious to how his hat might be interpreted by his black law professor. I presumed it was the former. As the student sat there directly in front of me, his shiny red MAGA hat was like a siren spewing derogatory racial obscenities at me for the duration of the one hour and fifteen-minute class.
Omari said that he did not evince his feelings, but he told the student in jest that he liked the cap:
As my blood boiled inwardly, outwardly I remained calm. In an effort to assuage the perceived tension, I jokingly told the student, “I like your hat,” when he raised his hand to participate in class discussion. Without missing a beat, the student mockingly grinned from ear to ear and said, “Thank you.”
He said that his notion that the student was purposefully seeking to “intimidate and/or racially antagonize” him was bolstered because he found that other teachers had not faced similar circumstances with students attending their courses:
An informal survey of my colleagues revealed that no other law faculty had experienced any students wearing such propaganda in their classes, which furthered my contention that this student was indeed trying to intimidate and/or racially antagonize me.
The professor concluded his article by noting:
In times of such heightened political disparity, decision makers in institutions of higher education should weigh the benefits of exclusionary, in-class political speech against the divisive burdens such speech places on students, staff and faculty.
In the meantime, faculty of color remain committed to professionalism, which also means peaceably coexisting with MAGA in the classroom. To be certain, however, in academic settings “making America great again” suggests a return to the days when women and people of color were denied access to these very institutions.
According to krem.com, Gonzaga University’s School of Law Dean Jacob H. Rooksby released a statement that said:
The School of Law diligently works to provide a respectful and inclusive environment that welcomes all students, faculty, and staff. We respect the points of view of all members of our community. This situation presents an opportunity for our community to listen to and learn from each other
Many Trump supporters, including both black and female Trump supporters, would staunchly disagree with the idea that the MAGA slogan entails any advocacy for racist or sexist ideologies.