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Red Hat Reclamation

If you ever visited Oahu, I’m sure you’ve ventured into the long line wrapping around the outside of Leonard’s Bakery, home of the delicious and addicting malassada, a Portuguese donut filled with creams like haupia to give it that Hawaiian flavor. These things are incredible. Impossible to eat just one. Leonard’s also sells really well-fitting trucker hats, a relative bargain bonus at only $13 per hat.

On a recent trip to Honolulu, they were sold out of these hats. Well, except for the all-red ones. There were a dozen of those, stacked high and collecting dust. Hawaii hasn’t voted for a Republican since Reagan, and doesn’t seem likely any time soon. The state is solid blue, and Democratic voters are still not comfortable wearing a red hat, possibly the strongest most recent symbol of divisiveness and hate — a tamed millennial version of the swastika or confederate flag. 

His red hat that defined so much of his ideology of racism and xenophobia now is just a red hat again. It’s up to us to reclaim the red hat as ours.

In Ventura, California, as part of the local park district there, visitors can take part in inexpensive sailing lessons over subsequent Sundays throughout the year. The first class offered gets you into a 14’ sailboat with a center board keel and detachable tiller. In only a month, you’ll know the basics of sailing, knot tying, and wind direction. They also sell blue and red trucker sailing hats with their name on it: Leo Robbins Sailing Center. They are really wonderful, well-made hats at $20 per hat. The only problem is, like at Leonard’s, no one wants the red hats because they don’t want to be confused with the MAGA crowd, understandably. 

Two years ago at the height of Trumpism in America, teachers around the country were striking for fair wages, smaller class sizes, more teacher support, amongst other necessities. In Los Angeles, thousands of union teachers marched on downtown LA, all wearing union red...shirts, scarves, and flags. What was missing was wearing red hats without worry. One union teacher said: “I had my whole strike outfit on, red shirt, red jacket, red hat... and I looked in the mirror and saw that red hat, and just couldn’t.” MAGA emblazoned hats were just too much then, and now. 

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And here’s where I offer a reprieve. 

Trumpism is done. He lost the election. Because of black folks in Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Atlanta, and indigenous folks in Phoenix (a big tip of the red hat to both of these groups), the man with the red hat is no longer our leader, thankfully. His red hat that defined so much of his ideology of racism and xenophobia now is just a hat again. It’s up to us to reclaim the red hat as ours. We must own it, redefine it. Maybe the red hat can now be a symbol of irony. 

I picture our children — elementary through college students — wearing those red hats backwards, or sideways, in defiance and in irony, knowing that only a generation before angry racist white folks who had recently climbed out from under their rocks wore it with bigoted pride and a strange anti-rebellion.

And now that those foaming-at-the-mouth Alex Jones fans have to shuffle their feet in defeat back to their deplorable dens of despair, it’s time for all of us — decent folks — to reclaim an otherwise innocent and harmless piece of attire.

We’ll see each other in the streets in our cocked MAGA hats and we’ll share a glance and a smile, knowing that the other is in on the big joke, that the past won’t be repeated, that the good guys (well, better guys) won. 

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Next up, we’ll reclaim Harley Davidsons and pick-up trucks, but first things first. 

Brian Wright