Nikes, Knees and Narratives

Congratulations to Nike for being on the right side of history and supporting Colin Kaepernick.  Congratulations to Ford for joining them.  These are examples of powerful cultural and corporate icons using their renown to stand with a man who has been clear about his protest from the beginning. As an aside, people who are burning their Nikes are invited to donate them to Veterans Organizations–the same veterans about whom they claim to be so concerned.  I wonder if people will start burning their trucks.  Stay tuned.

Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee has nothing to do with veterans, the national anthem or the flag. It is also not the first time sports players have knelt for the anthem. It happened in the 50’s to protest black lynching.  All the players were white.  Kaepernick’s taking a knee has to do with protesting unarmed black men being shot by white police officers.  It is about protesting the systemic racism that maintains black unemployment at a significantly higher rate than that of whites. It is about the rise of white supremacist groups and the lack of outrage by the dominant culture.  It is about the prejudice and assumptions that still live deep inside.   

The Occupant inflamed people by claiming it was disrespectful to the military and the flag.  If you want people to go ballistic, mess with the military, the flag or the national anthem. What is missing is that no one is listening to Kaepernick himself.  It is an example of the arrogance of the dominant culture taking a person or a people’s truth and reshaping it in ways that support the dominant culture.  This is history repeating itself.  We have all been taught the false narratives and believe them to be true.  The voices of the marginalized are missing.      

The dominant culture taught us that the pilgrims and the Indians were the best of friends, when in truth our forbearers committed genocide against many Native Nations, eradicating them completely.  Native Americans are our hosts on their land, but we were never taught that. The narrative of their experience of colonization has been hijacked into some BS story about the first Thanksgiving and how the settlers had to “subdue” the “Indians.”  Native children were separated from their families and their tribes (history repeats itself again) and placed in residential schools where the goal was to “kill the Indian in the child.”

The dominant culture teaches us that racism is a thing of the past. The Civil Rights movement supposedly “fixed it;” meanwhile, a black man was shot in his own home when an off duty police officer entered it by mistake. In another town a white woman called the police because a black man was barbequing in his back yard.  Racism, in some way, is alive and well and living deep in the hearts of most of us. Have you ever locked your car door because you saw a black youth coming toward you while you were stopped at a traffic light?  Racism lives.

The dominant culture hijacked “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” and in so doing minimized the disproportionate number of blacks who are killed by whites.  “All Lives Matter” is a way of denying that racism still exists and white privilege is real. Well-meaning people of faith proudly put “All Lives Matter” signs on church lawn. Thinking they were doing the right thing, they did not realize how they participated in the hijacked narrative.

Hijacking the truths of people’s own experience is nothing new. The rhetoric of the dominant culture has long squashed the people and their truths and in so doing has kept them marginalized.

Jesus constantly called out the dominant culture and its exploitation of the poor.  The imperial government of Rome was in collusion with the Temple leaders of the time to extort exorbitant taxes from people who were barely surviving. The rich became richer and the poor became poorer (history repeats itself).

Money, the economy, justice and politics were Jesus’ primary topics.  He talked about them more than anything else.  When people say religion and politics don’t mix I wonder what Bible they are reading. Jesus was all about faith and politics, all about drawing the marginalized into mainstream society through just actions and a just economy.

When I ask myself, “what would Jesus do?” I believe Jesus would take a knee beside Colin Kaepernick with a hand on his shoulder.    

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