Taking a Knee Stands for Something

by Shadra Bruce

If you are not a person of color, and you are judging the #TakeAKnee protests for being an insult to our anthem, our flag, or our country, I urge you to:

  1. Recognize that the protest is not about the flag or the anthem (or football).
  2. Understand that there is no possible way you or I could ever even come close to understanding what it’s like to grow up black or brown in this country – and that so recognizing is only the beginning of becoming an informed person when it comes to race, equality, and justice in this country. The disparity is real.
  3. Educate yourself. You can gain empathy and compassion for the experience of others, even if you can never actually comprehend the true terror of the atrocities they have endured.
  4. Stop placing judgment on where protests happen or when they are happening or why you think they’re happening, and instead of offering your opinion about alternative means of protest you find less offensive, recognize that this has happened because no one is listening and nothing is changing. So LISTEN. Hear the concerns and fears.
  5. Acknowledge the injustice. Acknowledge that when you get pulled over by an officer, the risk you face is far less than what it is for people of color – even when they are 100-% compliant and innocent.
  6. Recognize that a person can be against police brutality and still support the police, that a person can want police officers who have committed crimes to be removed from their jobs (just as we would teachers, priests, and politicians who violate our trust and don’t uphold their promises), without disparaging all the great officers who put their lives on the line every day.
  7. Acknowledge that this country has always had a problem with race and that it is a very powerful basis for the inequality that still exists today – that sometimes you can’t just pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and make a better life for yourself, that some people do start out with an advantage that others have no access to.
  8. Question your own motives. If you were supportive of Tim Tebow taking a knee after every touchdown to thank Jesus Christ because that was something about which he felt strongly; if you were supportive of Kim Davis protesting gay marriage by refusing to issue marriage licenses because that was her belief; it’s important to examine why those incidents were okay – why them and not Colin Kaepernick.
  9. Start learning about the racist history of this country. Read Race by Studs Terkel; White Like Me and Dear White America by Tim Wise; Race Matters by Cornel West and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.
  10. Start listening to people of color – without passing judgment. Listen to their stories, their concerns, their first-hand experiences. Hear them. Imagine how you would feel if your child had endured the same experiences, if you had.

Open your heart and your mind.

It is the only way forward.


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