I’m Taking a Knee

It’s hurting me that the majority of what I’ve seen from my white friends or other people on their posts is condemnation of peaceful protest by Colin Kaepernick and victim blaming for Black men who are shot by police with statements like, “He should have…” or “He shouldn’t have…”

Friends, that’s not how this works. If your feathers are ruffled about a peaceful protest but you’re not furious, hurting, or at the very least curious about the REASON for the protest, it’s time to check yourself.

In addition, when you hurt someone, you don’t get to blame them. You should APOLOGIZE. You should feel heartsick. You should do something to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I teach my kids they don’t get to blame the victim. “You should have____, and I wouldn’t have ______,” is an unacceptable excuse for how someone was ultimately injured. Taking responsibility for our actions is an important life lesson, so let’s lean in, white friends, and take some responsibility.

So, you may be thinking, how am I to blame? What responsibility do I have in this? Let me explain it the best I can….

In the Terence Crutcher video, we hear a (presumably white) man in a helicopter saying about Mr. Crutcher, “That looks like a bad dude, too. Could be on something.”

Why does Mr. Crutcher look like a bad dude? Is it his SUV? His khakis? His bright white shirt? Nah. It’s because he’s Black. This white man in the helicopter has, at the very least, an implicit bias that Black men are dangerous, scary, probably druggies. (Implicit bias means it’s subconscious… things we learn but that we don’t realize we’ve been taught.)

Can you imagine how it might have sounded differently if the man in the helicopter did not have that implicit bias? “That man looks terrified. Four officers with their guns drawn on him, shouting at him, he is probably scared out of his mind right now.”

Have you ever responded not-so-rationally in a terrifying situation? Black men learn young that they can be killed EVEN WHEN THEY ARE INNOCENT and EVEN WHEN THEY COMPLY. White friends, can you even IMAGINE the fear? I doubt it. Lean in. Listen.

Could he have been SO TERRIFIED that he wasn’t thinking clearly? Could he have heard so many stories about INNOCENT Black men being killed for as long as our histories have been merged, simply because of the color of their skin, that he was terrified BEYOND RATIONAL RESPONSE??

The book “To Kill a Mockingbird” isn’t a classic because it’s sci-fi. It’s because it paints a picture of our tragic history that we still haven’t learned how to undo, where an innocent Black man dies as a result of racism, both explicit and systemic, and the white people (all but Scout) carry on without acknowledging the loss because it was expected, or carry on blaming the victim because “he shouldn’t have…”

Well, call me Scout, because I’m tired of hearing, “he shouldn’t have” or “he should have” from people who will carry on with their day, their month, their year without learning about and accepting their responsibility in undoing racism. Come on, white friends, it’s time you lean in, learn about implicit bias; learn how to check it. Learn about systemic racism; learn how to do your part to undo it. Learn. Listen.

Consider this me taking a knee, trying to raise awareness. Together we can make this “the land of the FREE and the home of the brave”, “with liberty and justice for ALL.” Until then, I’m going to keep taking a knee.

*** This post was originally shared to FaceBook in response to John Pavlovitz’s White America, It’s Time to Take a Knee. When it went viral I realized it had a bigger impact than I expected, and I am humbled that these words and my share of John’s post are helping people express how they feel on this often hard and uncomfortable topic. Keep leaning in friends!  ***

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