Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson is a journalist, political analyst and columnist for The Los Angeles Times. He was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and the Hechinger Institute at Columbia University, and is a co-host of ESPN LA 710’s “Mornings With Keyshawn, LZ and Travis.” Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @lzgranderson. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. View more opinion articles on CNN.
It was such an easy sell – images of white kids from Kentucky wearing Make America Great Again hats and antagonizing elderly Native Americans seemed like racism personified. Right?
Not so fast. For those who believe all President Trump supporters are just a bunch of racists, the initial videos that surfaced of a confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial last weekend served as kindling for a fire that’s been burning since he was elected in November 8, 2016. Then the story got complicated.
I covered that 2016 election, from the numerous primary debates to that historic Tuesday night, and it’s been my experience that a significant number of Donald Trump’s supporters are racists. It has also been my experience that a significant number are not.
And while many liberals believe those ubiquitous red baseball caps are a modern-day white hood, the truth is they are not one and the same. The initial video clip of the Covington Catholic High School students – in which a teenage boy faced off with a Native American elder at the Indigenous People’s Rally – was a Rorschach inkblot. The other clips that have since been released – in which a group of black men, self-identified as Hebrew Israelites, are seen taunting not only the students but hurling racist slurs at participants of the Indigenous Peoples Rally – is a reminder.
The decline in public libraries and the rise of tablets have made books less popular, but this age-old idiom still remains true: you can’t judge a book by its cover.
That’s not to suggest the high school students were all angels or that none of them harbor disappointing views about diversity. But the actions of the group of black men who identify as members of the Hebrew Israelites add depth to a story many thought was fairly easy to figure out.
And all because of a baseball cap.
Now teenage boys are reportedly getting death threats for being a part of something that it appears a bunch of angry adults started. I don’t despise social media, but it certainly lends itself to a mob mentality very quickly. A white woman getting bent out of shape about black people barbecuing in a public park can quickly become a meme or hashtag thanks to Twitter. But she can also become a social pariah, which is why it’s important to resist the urge to grab anything that looks like kindling and toss it on the anti-Trump flame.
Being a politically engaged electorate is not only important, it’s the heartbeat of a healthy democracy. But there is a difference between simply being engaged and being informed. A voter can be as dumb as a doorknob and still be engaged. To be informed takes more than outrage, it takes time. At least more time than the seconds one needs to read a baseball cap.