This documentary is not what you think it is. Schroder does not let Covington Catholic High off the hook. Having attended the school, he understands the toxic culture cultivated there, leading to the students’ odd encounter with Phillips. He explains why the boys just didn’t walk away during the confrontation. He brings several experts in to speculate about what was going on in the students’ minds that lead to this confident stance oozing of privilege, supremacy, and racism (they were wearing MAGA hats, after all). It becomes both a racial and class confrontation.
What The Boys in Red Hat attempts to do is get to the truth. Not just the simple truth about the incident. In fact, the director refuses to accept the idea that this was a simple case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Schroder himself is conflicted ever since he first saw the video. At first, he was ashamed that his school was involved in a racially motivated encounter and somewhat relieved to learn that the media got everything wrong. But then he remembers an abusive incident with his teacher that led him to question various controversial traditions at the school that still has us talking, such as Black day (an incredibly uncomfortable revelation).
“…does a great job presenting both sides, which is not easy to do.“
What I found most compelling about The Boys in Red Hats that it is neither a puff piece defending Covington Catholic High nor is it an indictment of their perceived crimes of racism and privilege. Schroder does a great job presenting both sides, which is not easy to do.
Like most political issues I’ve studied, I find that the answer is a matter of I’m right, you’re evil, or right vs. left. The truth in this situation lies somewhere in the middle, and all the filmmakers are trying to do is have both sides listen to one another and find some empathy for those with whom they disagree. That is the first step to finding common ground and enacting change. Whatever side of the debate you land on, what you think you know what happened that afternoon in 2019 will be challenged. Challenge is good.
"…the first step to finding common ground and enacting change."