Two Pennsylvania teenagers received a sharp reception from one of American’s most prominent HCBUs after they wore “Make America Great Again” hats on campus.
Allie Vandee and Sarah Applequist, both 16, were part of a Union City High School tour of Washington, D.C., with 28 other teens. As part of the tour, the group visited Howard University, an HBCU, or historically black college and university. Around lunchtime, the two girls entered the dining hall wearing the “Make America Great Again” hats.
After spotting the girls, Howard student Essence Dalton tweeted a picture of them, saying, “Who told these lil yt girls they could come to THE HU like it was about to be some joke.” Another student grabbed their hats, another one shouted an expletive at them, Buzzfeed News reported.
Dalton’s tweet was followed by a tweet from Howard Dining saying, “We will take any action necessary to ensure that HU students feel safe & comfortable in our dining spaces. This group is no longer on campus.”
Whether the girls understood they were visiting an historically black university -- and whether they knew that wearing the hats would be provocative -- is unclear. Buzzfeed News reported that the school had been listed on the tour group’s itinerary, but Vandee said she didn’t know the school was an HBCU.
Applequist said she bought the MAGA hat at the mall the day before visiting Howard. She said she didn’t know Howard’s history before the tour, and that if she had, she would not have worn the hat.
Dalton told BuzzFeed News she blames the chaperones.
“My personal concern isn’t the young girls, it’s the adults who should have better informed the girls of the history of our university and why the Trump paraphernalia might be inappropriate in light of recent racial tensions especially coming from non POCs (people of color),” she said.
After the visit, Vandee tweeted, “#noshame #MAGA,” along with a screenshot of a longer response in which she said in part, “It’s unfortunate that more Trump supporters have to fear going places than others. I will never be embarrassed for supporting Donald Trump. I will always support OUR president when, and wherever, I please,” Essence Magazine reported.
The university released a statement about the incident on Twitter:
“Today, there were visitors on our campus who were wearing paraphernalia that showcased their political support. This occurrence and the responses on social media that followed emphasize the need for and importance of human interaction. The recent events in Charlottesville are the latest examples of the deep divisions that exist in our country.
“Though this is an institution where freedom of thought, choice, and expression are ever-present, we will never compromise our values or allow others to convince us to do so. We will remain committed to truth and service and boldly affirm who we are and what we stand for. Our campus is a space for educational engagement to occur between both those who do and do not share our values. Thankfully, when visitors set foot on our campus they are met with some of the brightest and best students in our nation. Howard students are not simply academically advanced, political activists, leaders, and mentors. Howard students represent all that is right about America.”