On Friday, July 21, KIRO reported that a teenager, Ashton Hess from Illinois, pulled a dumb stunt: He wore a MAGA hat not just in Seattle, but on Capitol Hill. (Magnolia would be another matter altogether.) He walked out of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and, as expected, was soon cursed at and his hat spat on and so forth. The teen filmed the incident and posted it to YouTube. He was a victim. He has a right to wear the cap. This is America. He is a boy who is just "avid in conservative political activism at both his school and in his congressional district." We should be impressed by his passion of politics. That sort of thing. But MAGA caps represent crying brown babies in cages—and, for many, there is no way to look over or beneath this and other similar facts represented by that cap. (The teen also pulled this cap stunt in Austin.)
The right wing media saw the cap incident as something that looked like the recent rash of what New Yorker writer Doreen St. Félix wonderfully calls "cop-calling tapes." At this point, I want to leave Ashton Hess with the racist MAGA nonsense—it's a story that ends where it begins, and so thinking about it is like turning over a stone in your mouth—and write about the far more interesting subject of ordinary white people calling the cops on black people doing ordinary things, such as selling bottled water, trying to use a coupon in a drug store, waiting for a friend in a Starbucks, leaving an Airbnb, opening a lemonade shop they own, or listening to yoga music in a car. There is not a week that passes without one of these videos going viral. They star white men and women like Coupon Carl and Permit Patty and Pool Patrol Paula. And Doreen St. Félix describes the thing they have in common as the "banality of racism." But what these viral videos and incidents reveal is actually the opposite: Blacks cannot be banal.
The 911-calling white people cannot, it seems, imagine blacks doing the same normal stuff that white people do every day. In one recent case, which was not recorded on video, cops were called to investigate a black boy cutting grass. Surely, one does not push a lawnmower up and down for fun. It is boring work. But a black person just cannot be boring. It's impossible. That black boy must be up to something, something other than exactly what the white eyes see him doing, this common business of cutting the US's "largest irrigated crop," grass (second is corn).
In another incident, a black boy delivering a newspaper with his mom was questioned by cops. What was he doing here? Surely it's irregular. But he was doing his job. Nothing more or less. What he was seen doing was indeed what he was doing.
Nicole Hensley of the New York Daily News writes:
A fledgling paperboy working alongside his mother in suburban Columbus, Ohio, came face-to-face with a cop after a neighbor thought he was up to no good.
The nosy neighbor spied the 12-year-old boy, who is black, hop out of a van and walk up to a handful of Upper Arlington homes Friday. She initially assumed he was delivering newspapers, she told authorities, but soon thought otherwise.
What she saw was correct. Her eyes were not lying to her. A boy delivering papers is delivering papers. But all of the power of her eyes proved to be no match for the even more powerful, and in many cases very dangerous, thought: the impossibility of black banality. What this black man or that black woman is not doing must always be what they are doing.