Paul L. Caron

Monday, July 8, 2019

What Should A Black Law Professor Do When A White Student Wears A MAGA Hat In Class?

ABA Journal:  Seeing Red: A Professor Coexists With 'MAGA' in the Classroom, by Jeffrey Omari (Gonzaga):

Omari 2It was just a few minutes before the start of class, and I was standing at the podium prepping my notes when, through my peripheral vision, I could see a speck of red on the student’s head as he entered the classroom. ... 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 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. ...

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Articles like these are the reason many in the law profession as well as in non-law academic circles believe that law professors are completely detached from reality. This professor acting like his student wore a KKK hood to class. I despise Trump, but this entire debate is absurd.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 11, 2019 12:39:44 PM

When I wear a red MAGA hat, it means I love America, I respect our President and it has nothing to do with white Supremacy. It has everything to do with love of Country, including Blacks, Browns, Whites, etc. I am proud of America and how our president is treating all American's the same. Sorry for your thoughts about Make America Great Again. It has nothing to do with slavery, that is such a stretch. He loves all Americans, even those who don't like him.

Posted by: JR Laudan | Jul 10, 2019 4:28:21 PM

Wearing a MAGA hat is a sign of poor judgement all the way around. Flunk him.

Posted by: John J Donnelly | Jul 10, 2019 1:36:19 PM

I think the class should stand and do the pledge of allegiance

Posted by: Dave Peckham | Jul 10, 2019 11:46:00 AM

Sad that a "so called " man of enlightenment cannot abide a contrary opinion. How utterly contemptible of this man child posing as a professor. The ruins everything with politics.

Posted by: JOh Diamond | Jul 10, 2019 6:40:17 AM

Just FYI, here was my dress code I adopted from the Texas Instrument employee dress code:

For women: No bra straps, no belly buttons, and no butt cracks.
For men: No hats, no displays of underwear, and no butt cracks.

This dress code was spelled out in the syllabus. In over ten years, I didn't have one complaint.

Posted by: Dale W. Spradling PhD, CPA | Jul 10, 2019 6:05:45 AM

I am drowning in the Trump cool ade. Normally I could not care less about what a guy wears to class but that MAGA hat is a dog whistle for racism. Every alt-right commentator out there, from the proud boys, to talk radio, loves to wear that gear to let it be known they are proud, white and if you don't like it F off [!]. Should we get into the moral , ethical and intellectual bankruptcy of a serial sexual predator POTUS? Discourse is lost, now. Its all about spewing your opinion in YOUR FACE rhetoric and the truest sign of a government descending into fascism is those in Government unable to compromise and work together for the common good. That MAGA hat also says you are ok with the abomination that is child separation & human rights violations at the border. If you are a person with any modicum of ethics , integrity, and a world view not slanted by White-partisan bigoted Fox news, that hat is an big middle finger to you.

Posted by: Marco Garcia | Jul 9, 2019 2:58:22 PM

All I can say is, thank goodness for anonymous grading.

Posted by: anymouse | Jul 9, 2019 12:51:12 PM

And here's another article debunking the implicit bias.

"However, the research on so-called implicit bias has its serious critics. Almost everything about implicit bias is controversial in scientific circles. It is not clear what most implicit methods actually measure; their ability to predict discrimination is modest at best, their reliability is low; early claims about their power and immutability have proven unjustified. And yet colleges and corporations have been rushing to institute "implicit bias trainings" in (misguided and unlikely to be effective) attempts to reduce discrimination."

"My own view is that the research framed on implicit bias has been wildly oversold, and its proponents have often leaped to conclusions not justified by the data. And I am not alone. Banaji and I both attended a recent National Science Foundation-supported conference on implicit bias, and one of the other presenters there declared, 'I think the sexy story that the public has received is irresponsible.'"

"My view is that this is wildly premature—and potentially even dangerous. The overselling of implicit bias has, in my view, along with several other wildly oversold concepts (microaggressions, stereotype threat, white privilege), contributed to the toxic environment on many campuses and in some corporations in which speech is considered “violence,” and in which if you say the wrong thing, you can be denounced, ostracized, and even fired."

Posted by: Anon | Jul 9, 2019 10:15:19 AM

Wow, homo economicus, you are accusing over 40 people of having an implicit bias. This doesn't say anything about them, but it does say a great deal about you.

In addition, recent studies have debunked implicit bias. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education from Jan. 5. 2017 stated, "Researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Harvard, and the University of Virginia examined 499 studies over 20 years involving 80,859 participants that used the IAT and other, similar measures. They discovered two things: One is that the correlation between implicit bias and discriminatory behavior appears weaker than previously thought. They also conclude that there is very little evidence that changes in implicit bias have anything to do with changes in a person’s behavior. These findings, they write, "produce a challenge for this area of research."

That’s putting it mildly. "When you actually look at the evidence we collected, there’s not necessarily strong evidence for the conclusions people have drawn," says Patrick Forscher, a co-author of the paper, which is currently under review at Psychological Bulletin. The finding that changes in implicit bias don’t lead to changes in behavior, Forscher says, "should be stunning."

So, before you accuse over 40 people of implicit bias, do a little reading.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 9, 2019 10:06:27 AM

The professor is no doubt fully committed to "inclusion" and "diversity," but obviously has a very limited understanding of these concepts.

Posted by: sullivan2ay | Jul 9, 2019 9:35:35 AM

Are you so thin-skinned that you cannot stand to see or hear another opinion? Do you realize people such as yourself are the reason why the country is so polarized?

Posted by: Dan | Jul 9, 2019 8:10:20 AM

"...MAGA is an undeniable symbol of white supremacy and hatred toward certain nonwhite groups."

No its not. Thats just what you think a MAGA hat means.. Society as a whole has not decided thats what it symbolizes certain segments of society have. I feel like for a statement like that to be considered true an overwhelming majority of Americans would have to agree to that statement. I feel like 50-60% of Americans minimum would diagree with that statement including many who dislike Trump. You don't get to tell half of America what something symbolises. This isnt a scientific fact like what the temperature water boils at. Its your opinion.

Posted by: KH | Jul 9, 2019 7:57:59 AM

I like a lot of these comments but one in particular said it best: "These leftists are really terrible people. Nobody so bigoted could possibly make a decent professor."

Posted by: connie scalzo | Jul 9, 2019 6:28:34 AM

Maybe you can learn to tolerate someone with a different opinion?

Posted by: Lsi | Jul 9, 2019 4:24:29 AM

This so called "Prof" has an attitude problem and is unfit to teach, for that matter, so do most "Profs"

Posted by: george guttman | Jul 9, 2019 3:04:58 AM

"I can't stand Trump as much as any other sane individual..."
So JM, you are saying that folks who like Trump (about half the voting country) are insane? That's as bad as the article. JKG's first paragraph is right on point and applies to your statement.

Posted by: mer | Jul 9, 2019 1:17:47 AM

What a sad commentary on progressive sensibilities that a hat could get blood boiling.

MAGA hats are not symbols of White Supremacy but of America being great again.

As a POC, I am a lot better off today than I was 2 1/2 years ago. I LOVE America, all of America, being great again.

Posted by: Andrew Scriveley | Jul 8, 2019 11:49:31 PM

Professor Omari - Please do some reading before making such blanket statements. For example: Your article indicates you are the bigot, and not the student. In addition, your article will just contribute to fuel the horrible divide which is happening in America. One would expect more professionalism and tolerance from a law professor.
To quote an excellent comment already made here -- [The hat means “I support president Trump” like almost half the country. The notion that it’s an “undeniable symbol of white supremacy” is ludicrous, and it’s the professor, not the student, who needs lessons in professionalism. ]

Posted by: VJ | Jul 8, 2019 11:28:42 PM

Simple follow-up question for this academic: Does he have the same concern with students/faculty wearing/displaying the Obama 'Hope' symbol on T-shirts, posters, etc. I have worked in two universities, and it is quite common to see both. (There are still quite a few around even after Obama's presidency.)

Posted by: Ben | Jul 8, 2019 8:35:32 PM

How about tolerance?

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Jul 8, 2019 8:33:06 PM

Undeniable symbol of white supremacy? Based on what? It may be that white supremacists like Trump. Plenty of drug dealers like Obama - is he a symbol of selling drugs to kids? There is NOTHING about Trump that is white supremacist. Its a slander Democrats wield because he's winning on illegal immigration, trade, etc.

Posted by: The Objective Historian | Jul 8, 2019 8:10:28 PM

Wow, the comments here are so over-the-top hostile towards the OP (and on the topic of tolerance no less) that they ought to appear in an article about implicit (or maybe explicit) bias! Congratulations, commenters, you all are Exhibit A!

Posted by: homo economicus | Jul 8, 2019 7:52:12 PM

"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."

Yep, that'll prepare students for the real world.

Reminds me of my days in political science, lo those many years ago. You'd think it was today, what with Trump being Hitler and all, but he called me out personally when he found out I voted for Bob Dole for President!

The other students got the message, though. Wouldn't socialize with me for the rest of the semester. Some things really never change, but you'd think people today would have a little perspective and proportionality, huh?

Posted by: MM | Jul 8, 2019 7:08:59 PM

But a Che T-shirt would be fine.
I won't bother posting any of Che's quotes about blacks because they would be censored, rightly so, because they are disgusting and hate filled.
But somehow Che shirts and gear are completely acceptable.

Posted by: Mongo | Jul 8, 2019 5:56:40 PM

So we have reached the point where a college professor is to be praised for acting like a thinking adult when dealing with... a hat. That is despite his inner turmoil and anger, of course, without which he would not be 'woke' enough for the modern university.

Less angst, more education, professor. Unless you think it appropriate for a person in a paid position of power to lose his cool and start shouting over perhaps an AC/DC hat, or a Grateful Dead t-shirt, or perhaps even wearing the colors of a rival college.

You're an adult. Act your age.

Posted by: Georg Felis | Jul 8, 2019 5:33:44 PM

Once in awhile I'll wear my Green Bay Packers cap. When I do, it's not uncommon for a stranger to say "I like your hat", thereby indicating that he or she is also a Packers football fan. And my response is generally to grin and say "Thank you", thereby acknowledging a shared interest. So if I was the student in your story and had a similar exchange with you over a MAGA hat, my assumption would be that you were indicating that you were also a Trump supporter, and that we were sharing a minor bonding moment. Considering that polls show a still-small but growing support for Trump among blacks, that would not be an unreasonable assumption, especially since it is not yet politically correct for many blacks to openly express such an opinion.

Reading another person's mind is difficult and highly prone to error. Your analysis is based on your attempted reading of his mind, while he is trying to do the same with yours. You both could be coming to dramatically opposite and incorrect conclusions. Regardless, it's far better (and certainly more professional) to hope for and act upon the more favorable interpretation than to automatically assume the worst interpretation.

Posted by: Daniel Wiener | Jul 8, 2019 5:27:34 PM

Trump is the best president for blacks since Lincoln. The claim that Trump is a white supremacist is pure fiction and slander and this professor's assumption that the student wearing a Trump hat is racist is evil and disgusting.

First it was "Trump is a racist because he is against immigration," as if illegal is a race; then he was a racist for wanting to vet immigrants from Islamic terror hellholes to make sure they do not ties to Islamic terrorism, as if Islam is a race; then it was anti-black for him to criticize mass immigration from Temporary Protected Status "hellholes," when almost all TPS immigration is Hispanic, not black (the only black TPS country in the Western Hemisphere being Haiti).

Worst are the Charlottesville lies, claiming Trump said that there were some very good people on the Democrat-KKK tikki-torch side, who Trump specifically condemned in total, only saying that there were good people for and against the removal of Confederate statues.

Every accusation of racism is a stinking rotten lie and this ugly demagogue of a teacher evidently embraces all of it.

Guaranteed 100% that when he mockingly told the student that he liked his hat the student's wide smile was anything but mocking in return but expressed genuine gladness that this professor was not one of the vile idiots who assume that a desire for American greatness excludes blacks.

Look around sir. Where has Trump excluded blacks? Where does he not manifestly take joy in black success?

These leftists are really terrible people. Nobody so bigoted could possibly make a decent professor.

Posted by: Alec Rawls | Jul 8, 2019 5:27:08 PM

The use of the term "undeniable" in the author's claim that "MAGA is an undeniable symbol of white supremacy" jumped out at me, since I have seen that label increasingly used over the past week or so. It serves as a verbal indicator that no counter arguments need be considered.

Not only is the claim quite deniable (see several other comments), the claim is arguably ("undeniably"?) false.

The use of such a label by a law professor is disturbing, whether the author is merely repeating its use from elsewhere or--much worse--knowingly proffering it. (There is a good English word for someone who is strongly partial to a belief and intolerant of those who differ.) The situation presents a learning opportunity; it remains unknown whether the author and his class will take advantage of it.

Posted by: JKG | Jul 8, 2019 5:21:37 PM

I never alowed hats in class. Since 1974. Be consistent.
Be an equal opportunity banner. I view a hat as disrespectful.
I might make an exception for a bald student (#meetoo) or one with a medical problem but in 45 years no one has asked.

Posted by: joseph olson | Jul 8, 2019 5:08:51 PM

I honestly thought this was satire when I first read it and, with lines such as "his shiny red MAGA hat was like a siren spewing derogatory racial obscenities at me", who can blame me?

Posted by: George Junior | Jul 8, 2019 5:05:06 PM

It can be assumed that this academic has never won an actual adversarial case - assuming facts not in evidence, conclusion not substantiated, malice under color of authority, etc. etc. Wrong field. He ought to try community organizing - the appropriate venue for a professional whiner.

Posted by: Tom | Jul 8, 2019 5:00:35 PM

"MAGA is an undeniable symbol of white supremacy and hatred toward certain nonwhite groups. ."

As much of an undeniable fact as:

"Black men wearing purple framed glasses is an undeniable symbol of kill all whites movement"

Posted by: JoeInVerga | Jul 8, 2019 4:45:10 PM

"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. ..."
This is where you went wrong. You stereotype anyone who might disagree with you politically as a hater. You know what happens when you assume ...
Adjust your fucked up (progressive) prospective and you're good to go.

Posted by: dh | Jul 8, 2019 4:35:08 PM

Well, back in the day, when manners mattered, any professor would have said "young man, gentlemen do not wear hats inside."

Posted by: Zenman | Jul 8, 2019 4:04:38 PM

You were not honest with the student.

Posted by: wlc | Jul 8, 2019 4:03:46 PM

"Logical" sounds like a buzzword, as the professor uses it, but not something he himself is involved in. The "me, me, me" aspect of his article is astounding ... he's a professor in a law school?

Posted by: Mnemos | Jul 8, 2019 4:02:03 PM

"What Should A Black Law Professor Do When A White Student Wears A MAGA Hat In Class?"
The same he should do if the student wears a BLM t-shirt: nothing, of course.

Posted by: Paolo Pagliaro | Jul 8, 2019 4:00:00 PM

Why is any student allowed to wear a hat in the classroom? I would not tolerate a high school student wearing a hat — regardless of whether or not it bore a message — and I certainly would not expect a law professor to tolerate it either.

Posted by: Jerrym1957 | Jul 8, 2019 3:57:04 PM

I always enjoy a progressive show an incredible lack of understanding of the concept of “tolerance.” You are assigning the most vile names to somebody that has not lived your life, and consequently may have different viewpoints. You demand tolerance, but you do not seem to understand how to return it. It’s a two-way street, jerk.

Posted by: Hogarth | Jul 8, 2019 3:56:39 PM

Jesus, you're just LOOKING for a reason to be offended, aren't you? How about this? The student wore that hat because he loves his country and believes that Trump love it, too. His decision had NOTHING to do with you. What kind of narcissist assumes that it did?

Posted by: Blackgriffin | Jul 8, 2019 3:53:09 PM

Gee, how about the same thing a law professor should do when he sees someone with a Che shirt, Nothing. Go on and teach you class like a reasonable adult.

Posted by: rilanna | Jul 8, 2019 3:51:57 PM

As stated above: 1. Forbid any hats inside your classroom, you set the procedures in your room. 2. Start a conversation on the hat, what it symbolizes to you, (?) others in the room. Seems the first amendment is germane to your class.

Posted by: Kathianne | Jul 8, 2019 3:48:37 PM

So much for the professor being the adult in the room.

Posted by: Scott Jacobs | Jul 8, 2019 3:41:27 PM

Isn't it fun to put words in people's mouth against which to argue and take umbrage? I remember when "X" hats were in style. Oh the imaginary debates I had with those hateful racists (not).

Posted by: Bob Metty | Jul 8, 2019 3:33:45 PM

So, does the professor know what a podium is?

Posted by: R Stephenson | Jul 8, 2019 3:30:06 PM

I have a suggestion. Ignore like a functional adult. It’s just a hat. The only hate in it is what you disgusting people have assigned to it by dehumanizing and demonizing anyone who dared disagree with your holier than though, oh so precious selves.

I swear the entirety of the Left in this country is nothing but adults with toddler minds having a constant temper tantrum.

If we do hate you, Leftists, it’s because of this. You are making it impossible to coexist with you and your ponderous, exhausting behavior, and something is going to give way eventually.

Posted by: Rhapsody | Jul 8, 2019 3:24:26 PM

You are a snowflake. It is a hat.

Posted by: Charles Kunz | Jul 8, 2019 3:19:26 PM

Teach the class. Perhaps ask students to remove any hats, and be consistent. It is an undeniable statement of support for Trump, nothing else. Be the adult in the room like they pay you to be.

Posted by: Benny | Jul 8, 2019 3:19:24 PM

Mocking? How do you know that it wasn't genuine pleasure?

Easy way to deal with it, "Gentlemen, please remove your covers while in my class." That's common courtesy anyway.

Posted by: Joe Lovell | Jul 8, 2019 12:28:39 PM

Why even acknowledge the hat?

Posted by: Doug Richmond | Jul 8, 2019 12:06:55 PM

Quote: 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.

Yes, that attitude is certainly true in certain "academic settings," including law schools. But it merely indicates how out of touch with reality they have become. I find it scary, really scary, that law schools have faculty so devoid of any ability to reason from evidence. I'm currently going through Solzhentisyn's Noble Prize winning The Gulag Archipelago, and 'guilt without evidence' was precisely how the Soviet Union functioned under Stalin. Stalin and the ABA Journal seem to have a bent toward evidence-free judgment in common.

Is there any evidence, for instance, that Trump intends to keep "women and people of color" out of professional schools? I certainly don't know of any. Indeed, Trump took a lot of flack for having the lead architect for his Trump Tower a woman, which was a first for Manhattan.

We do, however, have amply evidence suggesting that Harvard is heavily discriminating against one "people of color" (Asians) in their admissions policy. And they're doing it by adopting vicious stereotypes of Asians, a classic racist ploy. Perhaps someone should create a hat that says MHLR—Make Harvard Less Racist. That would certainly be true. There is clear evidence of that.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Jul 8, 2019 10:24:09 AM

this guy is wound a bit too tight

Posted by: PeterTx52 | Jul 8, 2019 9:23:34 AM

From this article, it is very clear where the bigotry lies.

Posted by: Skipp | Jul 8, 2019 7:51:53 AM

I can't stand Trump as much as any other sane individual and look forward to the day he is out of office. That said, MAGA is the slogan of the current sitting president of the United States. If academic institutions start treating it as extremism or hate speech it will only be to their detriment.

Posted by: JM | Jul 8, 2019 7:29:06 AM

The hat means “I support president Trump” like almost half the country. The notion that it’s an “undeniable symbol of white supremacy” is ludicrous, and it’s the professor, not the student, who needs lessons in professionalism.

Posted by: Db | Jul 8, 2019 6:51:31 AM

The problem of what to do with a student who takes a position that the professor finds anathema has been faced by many professors, of different genders and races, in their classrooms. In this case, a student wears a MAGA hat and the professor sees red, ascribing a lot of things to the student's personality and beliefs because of it. I understand his concern, but I also believe that the answer to this problem lies within the professor's grasp, and that he came close to solving the problem. "Nice hat." "Thank you." "What do you think we need to do in order to make America Great again?"

My bet is that the student would not say "return to the days when women and people of color were denied access to institutions." But asking the question puts the MAGA student on notice that you, as a professor, are willing to discuss issues that will advance his education and will also advance something that has been missing in the discussion nationally--and that is that we are unwilling to discuss things calmly.

My congratulations for not using your authority to force a confrontation. My suggestion that you use it as a learning opportunity. Both you and the student may learn something from his answer and the other students' comments about it.

Posted by: Michael Kinsman | Jul 8, 2019 6:33:45 AM

nobody wore a hat of any kind in my classes.

Posted by: mike | Jul 8, 2019 5:17:00 AM

Maybe the student's proud of our President for a strong economy including the lowest African-American unemployment on record, protecting us and freeing the Middle East and Africa from the horrors of Isis, and standing up to corporate insiders for healthcare we can truly afford?

And reaching out of the young professional liberal comfort zone (that had largely been a disaster for our cities) to invite the class - and professor - to help Keep America Great?

Why not ask him informally sometime? Could be a learning experience all around!

Posted by: Anand Desai | Jul 8, 2019 4:29:26 AM