Taking a knee in America

If you don’t believe black people endure institutional racism, then of course taking a knee appears resoundingly disrespectful. But what if your son was attending Harvard University, and every time he returned to his dorm from an off campus party, police put him against the wall to be frisked. On the cop’s shoulder is sewn an American flag.

And Michael Brown did a shitty thing by shoving that old clerk, and there was no hands up surrender. But police in Ferguson and the surrounding towns were writing thousands of jaywalking citations and a slew of other absurd fines in order to directly fund their departments. Anyone remember the Georgia speed traps on their way to Disney World? Imagine those speed traps on a daily basis, with no recourse but to pay the fine.

If your loved ones were being harassed by police, what would you do? If you were rich, yet no team of attorneys could change how your cousins and your uncles were treated by police on a daily basis, what steps would you take?

What if your President watched a march that was made up of 100% white supremacists, yet claimed there were many fine people among them? These are people who would lynch your son and laugh about it.

So you are a rich athlete, with the world stage. What do you do? Some took a knee. They aren’t stomping or burning the flag. Think of the athletes as bowing to half-mast. Something in America is wrong to them. To many black people, there is great suffering at the hands of police. Statistics bolster their argument.

Kneeling isn’t intended to disrespect soldiers. Let’s not forget that 1/3 of our military is of color. Listen: not one athlete taking a knee is thinking Fuck you, Marine. He is thinking My sister’s kid mouthed off to a cop and was beaten with a club so badly that he may not live.

White people who don’t fear police call these athletes ignorant, spoiled punks. Is that really the side of history you want to be on? Take a moment and recall the Little Rock Nine. Allowing black kids into schools with whites was going to end the civilized world. White girls were going to be raped. There would be disease. And in the ensuing 60 years, innocent black kids are still being followed around convenience stores and thrown against walls to be frisked.

Pro athletes are taking a knee because being black in America is not the same as being white. Being black means you are more likely to encounter police violence. You are more likely to be shot or choked to death for selling illegal cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner.

Let me ask all my 2nd Amendment friends what they would do if their government turned on them. Let’s see some Fed boys roll up in Crown Vic and demand to search your castle with no warrant or cause. What would you do if police or the Feds came after your family, started throwing you up against the wall? Yet you call Antifa scum and pro athletes who take a knee are “shameful” sons-of-bitches?

Again, what side of history do you want to be on?

About colealpaugh

Cole Alpaugh's newspaper career began in the early 80s, starting with small daily papers in Maryland and Massachusetts, where his stories won national awards. His most recent job was at a large daily in Central New Jersey, where his "true life" essays included award-winning pieces on a traveling rodeo and an in-depth story on an emergency room doctor that was nominated by Gannett News Service for a 1991 Pulitzer Prize. Cole also contracted with two Manhattan-based news agencies, covering conflicts in Haiti, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Thailand and Cambodia. His work has appeared in dozens of magazines, as well as most newspapers in America. Cole is currently a freelance photographer and novelist living in Northeast Pennsylvania, where he spends afternoons in a virtual running race around the equator, and evenings watching his daughter's magical stage performances. You can find him online at ColeAlpaugh.com.
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