The Legal Beat
Living With MAGA Hats In The Law School Classroom
Posted on Friday July 12, 2019
As the student walked to his usual seat in the seminar, which was directly in my line of vision, the message on his flaming red hat was unmistakable: “MAGA,” or “Make American Great Again.” …
I was in the first year of a two-year fellowship as a visiting assistant professor of law. Moreover, as an African-American male, I was one of an exceedingly small number of students, faculty and staff of color in the law school. 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. …
[I]n 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.
— Jeffrey Omari, a visiting assistant professor in the Center for Civil and Human Rights at Gonzaga University School of Law, in a recent commentary piece published in the ABA Journal where he described his reaction to seeing one of his students wearing a MAGA hat. To break the tension, Omari told the student, “I like your hat.” According to Omari, the student donned a mocking grin and thanked him. Omari believes that the law student was attempting to “intimidate and/or racially antagonize” him.
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.