Saturday, September 30, 2017

Stand Up. Sit Down. Fight, Fight, Fight.

It began when quarterback Colin Kaepernick dropped quietly to one knee during the national anthem, before a football game. He explained later he was declining to honor a flag for a country that oppresses people of color. "There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder," he went on.

He's right. There are. Young black men in particular are reminded constantly that their lives are not worth as much as mine. That they're expendable. That our justice system continues, as ever, to serve some of us and not others. Under the rain of daily indignities, one might expect rage and fury, and not the composure of a man on bended knee.

Which did not prevent white people from getting hysterical. It's disrespect! It's a slap in the face to all who have suffered and died for our flag! All over the social media, on pages littered with racist memes, their friends' if not their own, they declared themselves appalled and affronted by this simple assertion of self-worth.

Soon the memes were joined by an historical photograph: Martin Luther King Jr. on one bended knee, head bowed, leading fellow protesters in prayer after they were arrested. As always, it could be bent to serve any viewpoint: an admonishment to racists? A proper posture for a Negro? Or this, from a woman who claimed--somehow, without being struck by a thunderbolt--to have a great deal of respect for MLK. Her comment: "If those NFL players who are taking a knee during the national anthem had their heads bowed like Martin Luther King Jr., that would be acceptable."

Acceptable. Good to know.

I didn't have to check to see that she was not alive when MLK was. It was clear. Martin Luther King Jr. was not beloved of white people like her until well after he was murdered and safely in the grave. If only Colin Kaepernick had bowed his head, it would be acceptable? If only!

If only he had bowed his head. And held a kitten. During Amazing Grace, and not the national anthem. In his own house. Where we can't see him. And certainly not in a sacred arena like a professional football stadium.

Oh, Petunia. Trust me! I was there. You would have hated MLK. He was trying to get people like you to pay attention. He was trying to keep his people alive, see them educated and voting, set them free. He was trying to shake you up.

Ours is not the flag of North Korea, of Russia, of any totalitarian state. Not yet. This flag is the symbol of our freedom and duty to protest. If our soldiers have fought and died for a flag, that would be travesty enough; but it takes nothing away from their courage and sacrifice to note that they have often fought and died in service to the most powerful among us and the mineral resources they have built their fortunes on, to the despair of all people unlucky enough to have been born over those resources. "Freedom" is a code word designed to guarantee your complacency as we wage war for any reason. Freedom is what you're trying to take away by compelling a man to salute, by insisting on  a deferential posture.

A disproportionate number of our brave military men and women are African-American, and they will come home from their service to the same country they left, in which they will be passed over for housing and employment, in which they will be tailed in the marketplace and harassed by officers of the law, in which they will be caricatured as thugs, in which they will have to strategize daily to remain alive, in which they must instruct their young children how to survive, in which they can expect no justice even when their sons and brothers are murdered, again and again.

In which they are living a different and harsher reality than you, Petunia, that you choose to remain ignorant of, or refuse to acknowledge, or believe that, fundamentally, they deserve.

Petunia? This isn't even that hard. The only thing being asked of you, for now, is to pay attention. To hush for a moment and listen when your fellow Americans are trying to tell you something you do not know, or do not wish to know. You should bow your head. You should be ashamed.

57 comments:

  1. I was reading an op-ed piece in our local paper the other day, where a psychologist was quoted as saying that this whole "respect the flag" business is just a "cover story". A cover story is the story that racists tell others (and maybe even themselves) is the reason something is upsetting to them. In this case, they are "upset" about the flag (which is really just a piece of fabric, people!) being disrespected, but what they are in actuality upset over is black people. Most likely, people of any color that isn't white, but in this case... yeah, black people. And when their cover story is that the confederate flag is a piece of history (as opposed to -- once again -- a piece of fabric), what they are in actuality upset about is -- once again -- black people.

    Unfortunately, our "fearless leader" has given these yahoos free rein, as he is just like them, only more so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. If this act is seen as so deplorable, I cannot imagine any form of protest that would be "acceptable." Lord.

      Delete
  2. a football game is not the time or place; it's an entertainment venue that people have paid to enjoy sports entertainment, leave out the politics, not the place to assemble and protest

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, not a good point; a terrible point. Ming, and River, I hope you can consider how utterly wrong-headed your comment sounds. You are asking protesters not to make you uncomfortable by protesting where you can see them. The point of protest is to make others aware of injustice, so that change can occur. Can begin to occur. Can be thought of as having the possibility of occurring. If your community was being murdered in front of you, one by one, with no accountability, and you had a public platform to protest, wouldn't you? (Thank you, Murr.)

      Delete
    2. People sometimes say that the sports/entertainment arena is not the time/place for politics. Au contraire. If someone who has center stage can use that to further a social cause they believe in, it is the perfect time/place for it. If not them, who? If not there, when? When we see those in the limelight, who agree with our principles, standing up for them at risk to their careers, I find it very heartening. Maybe it will give us the courage to speak up to our peers when one of them tells a racist/sexist "joke", or to speak up in our workplace when we see unfair practices. I think these athletes give us hope that this is NOT a country of "sheeple".

      Delete
    3. Gee, if people got into football games for free, then would it be okay for a player to make a statement there? I suspect if one found this so disrespectful and inappropriate, it would be easy enough to ignore it, just like we ignore what's behind it.

      Delete
    4. Colin Kaepernick didn't bring politics into sports. Politics were brought into sports when somebody decided that games should start with the national anthem and a flag ceremony. Politics were *really* brought into the NFL in 2009 when the Pentagon started giving the league outrageous amounts of our tax dollars to put on what were meant to look like genuine patriotic displays on the part of the teams but which were really paid military recruitment campaigns. (True story--you can look it up.) So let's not get our knickers in a twist about an athlete using this ready-made platform to make a point about the extrajudicial killings of people of color by the people who are supposed to protect them, shall we?

      Delete
    5. I simply meant people go to football games to just watch football.

      Delete
    6. I'm just going to let bpadgett write all my stuff from now on.

      Delete
  3. "A disproportionate number of our brave military men and women are African-American, and they will come home from their service to the same country they left, in which they will be passed over for housing and employment, in which they will be tailed in the marketplace and harassed by officers of the law, in which they will be caricatured as thugs, in which they will have to strategize daily to remain alive, in which they must instruct their young children how to survive, in which they can expect no justice even when their sons and brothers are murdered, again and again."
    Not much that's UNITED about that STATE of affairs.

    ReplyDelete
  4. While the post is primarily one speaking about the US racism and freedom of expression what must be noted is that the current president has unleased a new wave of active racism globally. It is heart breaking to watch all the social media around our globe actively engaging in cyber hate.
    How ironic that the first lady speaks of the negative affect bullies have. It hurts to watch as so many step backwards in humanitarian wayson a global scale. It will take a very strong leader to get the world onto a positive track that all can respect and trust. Perhaps it will even have to come via a media event? All lives matter. Respect that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All lives should matter, but evidence is that some lives matter more than others.

      Delete
    2. All lives do matter, but what these athletes are trying to silently shout is that black lives matter because the evidence does suggest that other lives seem to matter more. When they take a knee, in my opinion, they are just trying to bring awareness to this fact. They are not saying all other lives don't matter. The example I've been using is: if you support breast cancer, i.e. go to a rally, walk-a-thon, donate, etc., are you saying that no other cancers matter? Of course not. But a specific type of cancer, i.e. breast cancer is being recognized on a specific day to raise awareness. That is what this movement is all about. Bringing awareness to the fact that we have huge inequity in our country right now. And I for one, am incredibly sad about the current situation. I defend their right to take a knee and as long as a protest is peaceful, I support every single action anyone takes to bring awareness to Black Lives Matter or any other cause they are passionate about. At this time, we live in America and we still have the freedom to protest. I hope it stays that way.

      Delete
    3. The other example I saw was when Hurricane Harvey was devastating Houston. "Help Houston!" came the call. "But all cities matter!" we said. Typical of us on the top of the heap to react to the Black Lives Matter movement by whining, "Hey, what about US? Don't we matter?"

      Delete
  5. Brilliant, Murr. I do miss a picture of Pootie taking a knee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He didn't want to pose, but I told him you missed him, so he acquiesced. He doesn't have much of a knee, though.

      Delete
    2. Please thank him for me. very kind, indeed. He illustrates your posts so well.

      Delete
  6. Because I disturbed entertainment is more important than people's lives----

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dang it, autocorrect! "Undisturbed".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. To anyone who says this is an inappropriate time or place for a protest, I would like to ask: when and where, exactly, can a black man protest without making you feel uncomfortable?

      Delete
    2. Yes, heaven forbid we should be distracted from our entertainment for a couple minutes for something that makes us uncomfortable, like racial inequality.

      Delete
  8. I will share this in the hope that it may reach beyond the the distress our flag must be suffering.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Replies
    1. You just made me look up the derivation. "Amen," from Hebrew, meaning "truth, certainty."

      Delete
  10. People of all shades have to stand up for humanity. Or kneel, in this case. The wrongheadedness of such a large part of North America's population is staggering. I include Canada, in case that wasn't clear. Good writing, Murr.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought Canadians were all cool, all the time. You'll have to enlighten me, and then I'll have to go eat a bunch of ice cream or something to feel better.

      Delete
    2. Would you like a list of links? :)

      Delete
    3. Of course, you did have that fat fuck Ford in Toronto, right?

      Delete
    4. Yes but he's dead now. I could talk about the mayor of Ottawa who wants to move a giant homeless shelter into a neighborhood that already has 3 and 40 social services, simply because land is cheaper there. Never mind that the neighborhood is largely Francophone, First Nation and immigrants. Maybe we should take a knee at the next city council meeting.

      Delete
    5. Maybe you should PLANT that knee...somewhere...

      Delete
  11. The keep politics/opinions out of sport has raised its flag over here very recently. And no, the issues raised (in your country and in mine) encompass people's lives (some people) in their entirity. Speak, kneel, sing. Do whatever you can, where ever you can. Some messages need to be heard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been writing and singing songs about issues since God was a child. I always laugh when someone says protest has no place in music. That would eliminate much of the sixties folk boom.

      Delete
    2. Some people believe protest has no place anywhere.

      Delete
  12. Eloquent. Lunch counters aren't appropriate either.

    ReplyDelete
  13. As always, you are right on. Write on?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Beautifully and devastationally said, Murr, and same goes for most of the comments. In a time when so much hate and bigotry has come out of the shadows, where it was always lurking apparently, you and your readers give me hope.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wow, Murr. Thank you for this post. I mostly lurk and don't comment, but I have to exclaim kudos for your and most of the commenters' statements. You all give me hope.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome. And welcome to lurk. I have way more lurkers than commenters and I love them all.

      Delete
  16. Excellent, and excellently written!! Thank you for your lucid and articulate viewpoint, and for being so damn right!

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is how and I am offended:
    they are comparing themselves to the civil rights leaders of the fifties and sixties, shameful, those men and women, marched, protested, organized strikes were beaten, jailed, and murdered, and Martin Luther King wasn't "taking a knee" he was a minister and was praying. These overpaid qnd over privileged have done nothing but play ball and beat their wives, let's not make them heroes.

    by the way, I live in mixed race neighborhood of Hispanic, African American, and we buy our fuel at a station owned by first generation Indonesian immigrants, and restaurants and other venues owned by Indians, and Asian. Who are your neighbors??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "They" (as long as we're dealing with big ole wife-beatin' generalizations) are using their platform to draw attention to a real and grievous situation that affects a huge community of Americans, and, as always, I suspect you are free to ignore them, and the situation, if you want. I am often baffled by what offends people. Racism offends me.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. You would like my neighbors.

      Delete