Taking a Knee

by Vanessa Z. Rivers

Samuel DuBose (43) Walter Scott (50) Eric Garner (43)

I shouldn’t be surprised that the motive for Colin Kaepernick — and the subsequent protests by others to spotlight the increasingly alarming number of law enforcement killings of unarmed black men, women and, yes, children without any accountability — has been lost on America. I am astonished, that whenever Black Americans stand up for our Constitutional rights, it is then somehow seen, as  diminishing the rights of whites.

Alton Sterling (37) Philando Castile (32) Akai Gurley (28)

Now before you good people drag out the “what about black-on-black crime” argument, let me explain the difference. When a black person kills someone — regardless of the circumstances or whether the victim is black or not — that person is arrested, goes to trial, is convicted and sentenced to prison. When a police officer — who is supposedly there to “protect and serve” all communities equally and professionally — kills an unarmed black person, there seldom is an arrest or trial. And if there is, usually no one is convicted, and we are left to mourn, yet again without any justice.

Sean Bell (23) Rekia Boyd (22) Michael Brown (18)

The charge that Mr. Kaepernick or any other protesting player are disrespecting the national anthem, flag or members of the armed forces is misguided. When I served, I took pride in knowing that my sacrifice and service enabled all Americans to freely express their constitutional rights, including to peacefully protest. I would venture to say that America was founded on the back of a “protest” to gain freedom from England, so it feels very hypocritical to label Mr. Kaepernick and other black athletes as un-patriotic and un-American.

Jordan Davis (17) John Crawford (22)

I also felt that my service was working towards the day that the “now” beloved Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, that his children would “one day be judged by the content of their character, and not by the color of their skin”. I too believed that this was would happen within my lifetime, and certainly in the lifetime of my children, but it still has not come to pass. I think that all parents want the best for their children, to be healthy, happy, and protected, but “protection” is not something that black parents feel is within our power to ensure. Black parents must have “The Talk” with their kids, oh, I’m not talking about the “the birds and the bees”, I’m talking about how to survive encounters surrounding a whole host of situations, including those with Law Enforcement Officers.

Laquan McDonald (17) Tamir Rice (12) Trayvon Martin (17)

This weekend we have seen more and more athletes taking a stand, by not standing, and I have never been prouder. As with the Civil Rights movement, that ended legal segregation, there is always a heavy price to pay. Colin Kaepernick, who isn’t playing this season, and the other black athletes with their protests are following in the footsteps of the great Muhamad Ali who willingly went to jail and had his title removed because he protested the Vietnam War and racism.

Sandra Bland (28) Freddie Gray (25) Jonathan Ferrell (24)

Hopefully one-day America will realize and admit that the need for these protests would not exist if people got as “emotional” about the black lives we see taken almost daily on TV and YouTube — by the very institution that should protect us — as they do for a symbol.

Our Black lives “do” matter, too.

 

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