Sunday, September 24, 2017

#SOL17: Kneel Down

"We Have Chosen Hope Over Fear" (Reilly, 2012)


The day after Barack Obama won the presidency in November 2008, Rob, Devon, and I were eating dinner at a local diner when I looked up at an image of the newly elected President on a FOX News telecast and snapped a photo.  At the time I wasn't sure what I planned to do, but I knew I wanted to work the image into a collage. As I worked our flag began to emerge alongside images of children and young people I had taught across many years. Like so many others, I too felt strongly that "we had chosen hope over fear." The flag symbolized that hope. I remember Rob and I believing that our flag was a beacon that called attention to what was possible. Thomas Paine in Common Sense wrote, "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right" (p. 25). It was time, well past time, to set right what was and remained so very wrong. Not all  were treated equally, justly, equitably. As white parents to a child of color, we took hope that night that given the vote, other white people in this country finally understood that healing racial injustice was the most important step forward we could make as a country.  If we failed to do this, we placed in peril these United States. 

And now, nearly a decade later, that peril feels palpable. We are a long way from that night when a young Barack Obama and so many of us felt proud, and believed that perhaps America was ready, interested, and committed to heal our racial injustice.  That hope has
 grown dim these last few years. Now, we are led by a man, who at the very least, is highly sympathetic with white nationalists, who bates Americans to hate other Americans on a weekly basis, and who behaves as the bully of the country.  Our president, Donald Trump does not act like a man who loves America. Loving America and its people is the foundation upon which all other presidential responsibilities rest.


The national anthem and the US flag represent many ideals for citizens, ideals that some have even died for and these beliefs aren't singular, nor are they owned. What America means has never been a simple or singular belief, nor should it. Democracies are far more complex. 

Being a patriot ought to involve some self-sacrifice and that's what the young quarterback at that time playing for San Francisco did. Sacrifice. Colin Kaepernick knelt in protest when the national anthem played. He explained, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." In kneeling down, he stood up and did so at potential personal harm. Unsigned, the talent remains in the wings this season as President Trump rallies his mostly white, Southern audiences by calling black athletes, like Kaepernick who kneel when the anthem is played sons of bitches.

Last week President Trump went to Alabama and said this to a crowd of followers:

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’ You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in the country.

Imagine, an old, white rich guy bating a hoard of white people at a "rally" by saying that his NFL team-owner friends (other mega-wealthy men) could be the most popular people in the country by firing black athletes for exercising the very rights that flag symbolizes.  Now consider that the man spewing such hate is the man elected to protect our basic ideals and frankly the only thing I am left wondering is why aren't we all kneeling down?  


  1. This is a powerful post. I, too, struggle to make sense of our world these days and am deeply distressed by the actions of Donald Trump. I am even more concerned by the almost 40% approval rating he has. Your ending question is perfect: " why aren't we all kneeling down?"

    1. His approval rating concerns me too. It makes me wonder what motivates his followers. I can't say i know.

  2. With each soundbite from the news, each comment in my social media from someone of white privilege, my hope erodes. Thank you for speaking up and out.

  3. Yes indeed - why aren't we all kneeling down? Thank you for sharing what is on many people's minds.

  4. I won't stop fighting for better times, but daily I see that not everyone is kneeling. My step-dad who fought in WWII all over the world was one who supported the Vietnam protestors, continuing to say how it was their right, that that is what our Constitution supported, no matter how one might disagree.

  5. "Why aren't we all kneeling down?" Such a great question. Your passion shows in this post. A passion for the good, the right, and the just. I want you on my team!

  6. I've been thinking a lot about what I'll do when faced w/ standing or kneeling during the National Anthem. Colin Kaepernick is much stronger than I. I read a piece in the WaPo comparing his Christianity and kneeling to that of Tim Tebow, whom I always looked at as a Pharisee. These days I don't have much hope.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.