By Mark West; Author ran as the Libertarian candidate for Governor of Arkansas in 2018
Actress and activist Alyssa Milano’s tweet during the aftermath of the National Mall stare down has drawn fire from right-wing critics. She equivocated wearing red MAGA hats with wearing Klu Klux Klan hoods. As of yet, Milano has refused to apologize and instead doubled-down.
Her reasons for such are made clear in her Op-Ed titled, Red MAGA Hats Are The New White Hoods.
What did she tweet that gained so much attention?
I felt her tweet went too far. My feelings haven’t changed, but I want to take a few minutes to give my own reasons. She almost drove me, a #neverTrump guy, to buying one of those ridiculous-looking hats.
Why? Because this tribal narrative, that the hats represent the KKK, is equally ridiculous.
I Do Agree With Alyssa
Before I move on, I do want to say that I agree with something Milano wrote in her Op-Ed. She wrote, “watching that video, each of us saw what we wanted to see.” I wrote a piece last week that essentially said the same thing. Our tribal nature is ripping us apart. We see everything the other tribes do as evil. We see our own tribes as the only ones doing right.
Unfortunately for Milano, she falls into similar group-think. She is being intentionally divisive. She is stirring the pot as much as she claims the Covington Catholic teens in DC were.
Milano’s words assume the worst about the teen boys, and the best about the indigenous peoples, while completely ignoring the actions of the Black Hebrew Israelites. Her Op-Ed protects her tribes while demonizing the teens. She creates an artificial division between Sandmann and Phillips that both have publicly stated doesn’t exist.
Both were engaged in a public misunderstanding. This misunderstanding was driven by the demagoguery hurled at the teens, and anyone else who disagreed with them, by the BHI group. Milano ignores the BHI group completely in her Op-Ed. She excuses them with her silence.
President Trump Is A Disaster
Milano and I do share a common view. We both believe that President Donald Trump is disastrous for our nation. My differences with our President stem from his authoritarian use of the office and with his politics of division. I plan to detail those differences in a mid-point “report card” following the State of the Union speech.
Well, that is if the SOTU really is back on.
She perceives President Trump’s threat to our nation on a vastly more bigoted, misogynistic level. Milano portrays the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” as being infested with racial tones. However, the phrase itself isn’t racist. Unless someone believes that President Bill Clinton was a racist. He used the slogan while running for office as well.
This tweet reveals the dangerous place we are in as a society. Purging forms of speech from our society for what WE feel they represent is a direct threat to the First Amendment. I’m curious as to how many MAGA hat bearers Milano has spoken to personally? I think it would be necessary, especially before dismissing all wearers of the hat as racists.
Understanding Is Essential
We can’t understand if we aren’t willing to listen. Milano’s Op-Ed displays a ton of opinion, but very little context. I would like to see her commentary from time spent in the trenches getting to know her opponents. Being from Arkansas I’ve spent a lot of time with the MAGA hat crowd and have gained a great deal of perspective. I think she might find some common ground if she were willing to make the effort.
Milano puts the blame entirely on the teens. She is upset that “white boys” can’t empathize. But her Op-Ed has a complete lack of empathy toward anyone not of her tribe. The real instigators that day were not “white boys” or “indigenous peoples” but a hateful and racist group of “black guys”. But “black guys” are one of the labels that belong to her tribe so she fails to mention them.
Maybe Milano can provide some context. How does she feel when white people claim that Black Lives Matter hats are racist? I know that the BLM hats aren’t racist. Racism is not in the goals of the movement. I took the time to get the context behind the hat. I encourage her to do the same.
We Must Find Common Ground
If we fail to have conversations about our differences, we will never see our similarities. I’ve found common ground with people of all political persuasions by simply having conversations. We must stop excusing our tribes. We must stop demonizing everyone from other tribes. The United States of America is too beautiful and grand for us to not try harder to understand each other.
Now, I don’t think Milano should apologize. She is firm in her beliefs, and coercing anyone to do anything against their will is wrong. Plus, I’m certain I’ll be in trouble for toxic masculinity in my perceived mansplaining in this column.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I do think that she is completely wrong to make a hat racist. Comparing folks wearing a MAGA hat in support of a Presidential candidate with those who used fear and intimidation to put down people of minority races is a stretch.
Even if some of the President’s policies seem overtly racist and xenophobic, we can confront those policies. It is unnecessary to paint well-intentioned people with such a divisively broad brush.
We can’t rob symbols of their context. But part of that context is understanding why someone would wear the symbol. We also can’t delude ourselves into believing that only our own context should matter when defining the views of others.
We can all do better. Our union deserves it.