Thursday, September 28, 2017
The actions of African American football players kneeling during the national anthem had been noticed, but not so controversial, prior to Number 45's tweet. But post-tweet, "taking a knee" has become just another tool to divide the country along racial lines. Like it has for others who avoid examination and exploration of truth,use of diversionary tactics has been wildly successful for 45. But in this instance,
backlash has been swift. Football owners and players have "taken the knee" after the President angrily demanded that any football player who kneels should be fired.
Georgetown Law Center students and faculty joined the kneeling protests. Last week, Attorney General Sessions traveled down the road to Georgetown Law Center to extol the virtues of free speech and condemn its "attack" on campuses. Session remarked: “There are many ways these players, and all the assets that they have, can express their political views other than in effect denigrating the symbols of our nation, the nation that’s provided our freedom to speak and act,” Sessions said. Those resisting equality claim that free speech is supported by our constitution and it is just this form of protest that is inappropriate, or - the protest is unwarranted or premature (choose your descriptor). During the Obama campaign, and again during Hillary Clinton's, we heard "the country isn't "ready" for an African American, a woman (choose your noun). It is always the timing or tactic that is wrong. But that reasoning is hollow.
I was a Viet Nam war protester. At the time, I was uncomfortable with flag burning. I am not sure how I would respond today. I knew that the flag (and draft card) burning kept the anti-war issues in the public dialogue and the resulting court cases reaffirmed first amendment rights. And sometimes it is a violent act that wakes up resisters. But I saw, also, how flag burning created the diversion pro-war people relished. For those less willing to hear the protesters' reasons for their demonstrations, focusing on flag burning provided an effective rationale for not addressing the flawed underpinnings of the war.
Taking a knee is respectful protest. Kneeling is effective, as demonstrated by the response of teammates and owners. Kneeling incorporates the spiritual into the protest, giving it a level of credibility not seen in other forms of protest. Kneeling induces silence, making the protest more powerful.
Focusing on claimed disrespect to the flag is the diversion that will prevent many whites from considering the underlying reason for protest. The president couldn't care less about kneeling football players. He cares that the nation remains divided. Therein lies his power. And his demagoguery.