My mom says I was 10 or 11 years old when we had “the talk.” This wasn’t the talk about sex or what happens when you die. This was the talk on how to act when you engage with the police. She told me, “Be as respectful as you can be. Don’t get an attitude and remain calm. You can always file a complaint later if necessary.” Many young Black boys have had similar talks. Their White counterparts have not. No matter what side of the “Kaepernick controversy” you land on, everyone must at the very least question why so many minority parents even feel the need to have these kinds of discussions with their children. Is their fear only imagined or have they come to grips with the very real possibility that an interaction with law enforcement could alter their child’s destiny?
THE REASON FOR THE KNEE
Even if in the larger scheme of things most Black men will not die at the hands of law enforcement, why is it that [by percentage] most unarmed people who do lose their lives in police encounters all happen to look the same? Why are almost all of them Black (1)? According to several different studies, Black men aged 15–34 are between nine and sixteen times more likely to be killed by police than other people (2). Additionally, unarmed Black Americans were five times as likely as unarmed White Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer. And let’s also keep in mind that an interaction can still be racially charged, frightening and generally leave a bad taste in your mouth even if you make it out alive.
Contrary to what some have very boisterously attempted to suggest, the ‘take a knee’ silent protest that Colin Kaepernick started has absolutely nothing to do with being anti-American, anti-police, or anti-military. In fact, the protest is pro-all of those institutions. Because I love my two young girls, I take intentional and purposeful actions to help them become better people. It is because of a love for this country that Kaepernick and many others want to see us achieve racial harmony. It is because of the numerous good police officers that the bad ones need to be rooted out. It is because of the freedom that the military has provided us all that we desire a country where all can live without fear of harm, intentional or unintended.
Kaepernick has been labeled anti-American and anti-Police. Yet he has never once suggested that all police officers are racist – because they aren’t. But a problem does exist and conservative, evangelical or populist affiliations shouldn’t blind us from the reality in which so many minorities live. That reality is that racism and its suppressive effects are to a large extent ingrained in our society. Allow me to clarify with an analogy. Suppose a baker is baking a cake and knowingly or unknowingly includes an ingredient, which can be harmful if swallowed. When you eat the cake you will likely get sick unless you are immuned to that ingredient. Racism is baked into the fabric of this country and is therefore unavoidable. White people can’t stop benefitting from it even if they wanted to. Likewise, minorities can’t avoid its influence even though their salary or location may change.
THE RESPONSE TO THE KNEE
This may sound like a dire situation for which there is no hope. However, there is hope that has been provided to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Word of God. The words of Paul to the Galatians ring clear, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Because we are to be one people living together on this earth it behooves us to figure out ways to win collectively instead of winning in segments. One group does not have to compete to win. There is no trophy or prize for best or loudest or most violent social group. There is but one prize, which is “an imperishable crown” (1 Cor. 9:25b).
The Bible communicates, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing” (Deut. 10:17-18). Therefore, our first response to seeing injustice should not be to tow the party line. Our first response should be to “weep with those who weep.” Our primary response to hearing the chant “Black lives matter!” should not be to retort “all lives matter!” Our initial reaction should be to assess why anyone feels the need to remind the world that Black lives matter…also. The very essence of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the non-violent, silent, kneeling protest of Colin Kaepernick and others, is precisely to affirm that ALL lives matter.
THE RESOLUTION TO THE KNEE
Colin Kaepernick is not addressing a new issue. To be honest, this is the best African-American’s have had it since this country’s inception and it still leaves a lot to be desired. The issue is old but so is the solution. Jesus was extremely focused on social justice and breaking down racial barriers. He talked with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 and she, from a tribe hated by the Jews, became the first evangelist. He routinely associated with people that were looked at as less-than. Many people can quote Jesus but the blessing comes in living like He lived.
There are many reasons people kneel. It could be out of respect, relief or to show reverence. If we are reading the same Bible with our eyes wide open and being led by the Holy Spirit, we shouldn’t arrive at such divergent opinions. Politics aside, let’s make sure we spend less time focusing on why men kneel in protest of social injustices and more time loving our brothers and sisters who kneel before the same God. If there is any lesson we can learn from Colin Kaepernick it is this – if you see an injustice and are inclined to address it, don’t hesitate. Just Do It.
Speaker & Apologist
(1) In One Year, 57,375 Years of Life Were Lost to Police Violence https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/05/the-57375-years-of-life-lost-to-police-violence/559835/
(2) Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/arent-more-white-people-than-black-people-killed-by-police-yes-but-no/?noredirect=on