A red baseball cap with white text across the front. If you’re like the average Penn student, such a hat probably makes you reflexively think of President Trump and his campaign.
Now, that symbol has a new meaning. Jason Choi (W ’17) and Max Wu (C ’17), two international students from China, are selling hats that say MAKE AMERICA FLING AGAIN and donating the proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Hats are available on their their website.
The hats are intended to parody the infamous MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hats that many wore in support of the current president.
Jason and Max conceived of the idea to contribute to the ACLU after the travel ban of seven countries was passed in early 2017. As citizens of China, they could not vote in the U.S. presidential election. In the aftermath of the election they felt helpless, but decided to raise money to combat the rising nationalist sentiment and intolerance they saw and experienced. Jason and Max chose to donate money to the ACLU, which sued the White House over the first travel ban and plans to do so for the revised version.
“We wanted to raise more awareness among the international community as to how important this issue is,” Jason said.
Even though international students are often unable to participate in American politics, Jason doesn't want the international community to be disengaged. For this reason, Max and Jason decided to pair their cause with Fling to attract the attention of Penn students.
Jason mentioned that a few people have wondered if the hats will be mistaken for unironic MAGA hats from afar, which is part of their satirical nature.
“That’s why we’re trying our very best to make sure people know what this campaign is,” he said, “and we’re confident in the intelligence and the temperament of the Penn community to understand what it is before they lash out in anger.”
In this way, the hats are somewhat of a meta–lesson in tolerance, because people may have to reevaluate their first reaction upon seeing the familiar white–text–on-red–hat.
As someone who has lived in America, China, and Britain, Jason is concerned with the rising nationalist sentiment he has seen in all three countries. After the recent U.S. election, this summer's Brexit vote, and a controversial election in Hong Kong that instated a politician from Beijing, he was troubled by the prolific political turmoil.
“As an international student, I’m all for diversity and all for inclusiveness,” he said. “Because I was born in the U.K. and lived in Hong Kong, which is very much an international city, I strongly identify as international.”