Sunday, September 24, 2017

Symbolic Acts Defy Racist Police, POTUS #TakeAKnee #TaketheKnee

As a small child I sat on my dad's knee and watched pro football. We were in Bangor, Maine so my dad, a former college football star, was rooting for the N.Y. Giants as the nearest pro team.

Football players and other professional athletes have since become major celebrities with powerful voices. Black Lives Matter has particular relevance because, for many black men and women, professional sports have been a pathway out of poverty when other paths were denied to keep white privilege intact.

This week a judge acquitted (white) former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of murder; he charged out of his vehicle illegally armed with an AK-47 assualt rifle, shouting "I'll kill this motherfucker" following a high speed chase. Anthony Smith was shot to death while seated in his car like many other victims of police violence. Black Lives Matter protesters are in the streets and being faced with the usual militarized police response.

Confronting police in St. Louis following Stockley verdict. Photo:
A video making the rounds shows St. Louis police in riot gear trampling and then arresting an older (white) woman who is part of the protests, simply for standing in their way as they advance on the crowd.

Colin Kaepernick is the S.F. 49ers quarterback who caused a sensation last year by taking a knee during the national anthem before a game against San Diego.

He was using his choice not to stand for an anthem to the racist police state that kills black and brown people with impunity. His action has since been inspiring to other athletes in other sports, and to entertainers like music legend Stevie Wonder who took to his knee at the Global Citizen Festival in NYC last night.

Image: Newsday  "Global festival rocks Central Park to end poverty"

Enter the demagogue with bad hair.

In a speech to Republicans in Alabama this week, he veered off script to say: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

One can't help but suspect that the temptation to use the catchphrase from his popular reality show overcame whatever weak filters exist between his brain and his mouth (or tweeting thumbs).

Referring to protesting players as "that son of a bitch" has had the effect of throwing several gallons of gasoline on the blaze. Hashtags relating to Kaepernick et al.'s symbolic gesture have been trending on Twitter ever since. (I have not been able to discover the difference between the original #TakeAKnee and the more recent #TaketheKnee, with many on twitter using both.)

Today's NFL games will be boycotted by many, according to self-reports on social media. Others will flock to their televisions to see just how many players take a knee.

Fans of baseball and basketball will be watching for players to take a knee as well. An Oakland A's catcher took the lead:

Meanwhile, a related controversy is brewing over the demagogue's disinvitation of the championship basketball team Golden State Warriors (also based in the San Francisco Bay area) to visit the White House. From Bryan Armen Graham reporting in The Guardian:

On Friday, point guard Steph Curry, the NBA champions’ star player, told reporters he planned to vote no when the players came together to decide whether to visit Trump. The Warriors could “inspire some change” and “send a statement” by snubbing the president, Curry said. 
On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team, Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

It was a long distance from conservative and very white Maine where my dad first explained white privilege to me ("Being white doesn't make you better than anyone else. But, because of racism, it does make you luckier.") to the diverse and relatively progressive SF Bay area where we moved when I was in middle school.

If my dad were alive today, he might be rooting for the New England Patriots. Then again, maybe not. The Pats are a notoriously racist team and one of many whose wealthy owners contributed to the demagogue with bad hair's campaign. (Big surprise: that group also includes the team with the racist name and mascot, the Washington "Redskins.") Dad moved back to Maine in retirement but he might have stayed a fan of his adopted SF 49ers, and taken a knee with Kaepernick.

Did I mention that Kaepernick is unemployed at the moment despite being one of the highest performing quarterbacks in NFL history? He's a free agent that no team, even ones that deperately need a strong quarterback, will pick up. I guess that's what my dad meant about white people being, not better, just more "lucky."

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