On a day off last week, I visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. It was my first time viewing the lower floors of the museum, which house the exhibits on slavery, the Civil War, segregation, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement.
The museum houses literally miles of artifacts, photos, and memories of our nation’s worst history. As a white man, I was fully prepared to shut up and try to understand what it must feel like to walk these hallways as a descendant of someone who endured the horrifying events I merely had to read about. I was ready for a somber, quiet, reflective, and emotional journey.
Standing in line before entering, something caught my eye, coming down the escalator, jarring me out of my prepared introspection. A red cap. You know which one. And it wasn’t a fresh one, bought from a vendor in D.C. or in preparation for a trip to the nation’s capital. This red MAGA cap was dirty and broken in, like a baseball mitt or an ideology. Under the hat was a boy in his late teens who was also wearing a shirt that read “TRUMP.”
My immediate feelings and judgements threw me from one world of discomfort into another. I wondered if the majority of black patrons around me had seen him. Questions raced through my head. I wished that I could interview him and understand even a small part of what the hell was going on.
Here is what I wanted to know and would have asked him:
And I wanted to ask his parents:
Unfortunately, he and his family walked past the line I was standing in and proceeded towards the cafeteria. My day continued, walking through a dark basement filled with hellish memories and hateful old artifacts, unable to shake the image of a hateful living artifact walking freely through the halls.