One way that racism persists in America is that non-Whites are not permitted to interpret their own experiences. White America has always reserved for themselves the right to describe the nature of “America,” to define what America means and what it means to be an American — and if your interpretation doesn’t square with theirs, then it isn’t legit.
If a non-White person says that their experience in America involves racism, White America cannot take that at face value, cannot engage in a simple act of listening. This brings us to the latest in the White America’s battle for the NFL’s National Anthem.
After Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the National Anthem, Kaepernick explained the reason for his actions: to protest racial injustice in America. White America rejected this explanation, out of hand. To White America, bending the knee means only one thing: disrespect to the flag/nation. In other words, Kaepernick doesn’t get to define the meaning of his own actions. White America has the final say on what Kaepernick’s actions means.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder”, referencing a series of events that led to the Black Lives Matter movement and adding that he would continue to protest until he feels like “[the American flag] represents what it’s supposed to represent” ~ Kaepernick, 2016
Frankly, White America’s anger seems more than a little. The only thing that Kaepernick and other players have done is take a knee. Taking a knee is what folks in church do when genuflecting or kneeling in prayer, so why is it that white Americans can take the knee in church on Sunday, then go home and get outraged by seeing a few players kneeling during the Anthem?
But it goes a step further, now, with Peter King recently comparing the kneeling NFL players to NAZI’s:
A Republican congressman from New York on Saturday said NFL player protests over police brutality and racial injustice were “premised on lies”, and compared the action of kneeling during the playing of the national anthem to “players giving Nazi salutes” or “spewing racism”. Source: Republican Peter King compares NFL protests to ‘players giving Nazi salutes’ | Sport | The Guardian
I suspect that the reason White America is so outraged and offended by Kaepernick has to do with White America’s ongoing turf war: White America has always reserved the right to define the nature of America and the American experience, and neither Kaepernick nor any other non-White gets to be the definer.
White America has never owned racism, never acknowledged the extent of the brutality and oppression, and never acknowledged the ongoing socio-economic privilege resulting from racism. In a word, White America has never repented.
There’s always been an evil irony in America: White America has insisted that non-Whites be “responsible” and accountable. If you want to enjoy the affluence of America, they say, you have to earn it. Yet this has always been a double standard. Non-white persons are held accountable for their actions but White America gets a pass in being held accountable for racism (past, present, and future).
But for my money, I’d say that this is simply the inevitable result of the fact that White America always gets to define the terms. If White America decides that kneeling is “disrespectful,” then that settles it, no other opinion matters, no other perspective is relevant, and no other interpretation is legitimate.
Since many don’t accept White America’s interpretation, White America is taking the gloves off. So now kneeling NFL players are “giving Nazi salutes” and police brutality doesn’t exist. Racial injustice doesn’t exit, either, in the delusional world of White America, where you can simply define away your own guilt and culpability.
It’s a fairy tale world where you can flip the paradigm and call evil “good” and redefine good as “evil.” But most essentially, it’s part of the ongoing struggle for power, and language is always and forever in the middle of that struggle.
And since I couldn’t let that pass….
Then, predictably, the refusal to engage and the disregard for the experiences and perspectives that doesn’t conform to White America: