Here I am, Taking a Knee

I have sat on this article all week, watching the ebb and flow on social media, carefully thinking out how to write my heart, but mostly in prayer. This is the third rewrite for me (and I don’t normally do that.) I want to be a critical thinker without a critical heart. I want to honor God with my words and speak with love, but it’s super hard. Every muscle in my human body wants to run headlong into crowded public areas taking people by the shoulders and shaking them while screaming, “What is wrong with you? Why can’t you see?” Alas, my Father is gentle and loving (not crazy or impulsive like me) and with a sweet Holy Spirit nudge, instead of screaming and running, He pushed me to take a knee with my brothers. Though I can’t kneel on a football field or on national television, we all have a platform: our workplaces, our social media, but most importantly – how we live our lives. Many of you may stop reading at this point because you have a preconceived opinion in this debate, but I urge you to bear with me and press through to the end of this article.

I recently read Dr. Brené Brown’s newest book, “Into the Wilderness.” I admire her work and her dedication to research. While there are a lot of take-aways, my favorite quote is, “People are hard to hate close up.” It’s easy to form an opinion on an issue from a distance. It’s easy to make a judgment keeping people at arms length. We have to be intentional about getting close to people, to hearing the full story. We have enough hate to spare in this world; what if we took a moment to try to understand? To lean into people’s lives… to learn more…to do more than just hear the negative noise… to listen

Aug 14th, 2016 – Colin Kaepernick sits for the national anthem…and no one noticed.
Aug 20th, 2016 – Kaep again sits, and again, no one noticed.
Aug 26th, 2016 – Kaep sits and this time the media lit up with negativity, even the President-to-be weighed in on the campaign trail
Aug 30th, 2016 – Nate Boyer, a former Army Green Beret turned NFL long snapper, penned an open letter to Kaep in the Army Times. In it he expressed how Colin’s sitting affected him.

In his letter, Mr. Boyer writes:

I’m not judging you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s your inalienable right. What you are doing takes a lot of courage, and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was like to walk around in your shoes. I’ve never had to deal with prejudice because of the color of my skin, and for me to say I can relate to what you’ve gone through is as ignorant as someone who’s never been in a combat zone telling me they understand what it’s like to go to war.

Even though my initial reaction to your protest was one of anger, I’m trying to listen to what you’re saying and why you’re doing it.

There are already plenty people fighting fire with fire, and it’s just not helping anyone or anything. So I’m just going to keep listening, with an open mind. I look forward to the day you’re inspired to once again stand during our national anthem. I’ll be standing right there next to you.

Colin invited Nate to San Diego where the two had a meaningful discussion that lasted more than an hour and a half, and Nate proposed Colin kneel instead of sitting out the anthem. Why did the two decide on kneeling? In a military funeral, after the flag is taken off the casket of the fallen military member, it is tightly folded 13 times and then presented to the parents, spouse or child of the fallen member by a fellow service member while kneeling. The two decided that kneeling for the flag would symbolize his reverence for those that paid the ultimate sacrifice while still allowing Colin to peacefully protest injustice.

In sports, you kneel when someone is hurt as they are taken off the field. It shows that the players care and that they want the injured person to be okay. Our nation is hurting, and these players want healing.

Kneeling is a symbol of prayer in many religions. It’s a gesture of reverence and humility.

Empathy, not zealotry hidden under the mask of patriotism, is the only way forward.

Let us not forget that Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin are just a few of the reasons why Kaep took a knee in the first place. Bernice King tweeted, “The real shame & disrespect is that racism STILL kills people & corrupts systems.” She’s right; the simple fact that there are so many on social media, in media, in politics calling names and telling these NFL players to, “shut up and play football’ is dehumanizing in itself. “These players” are people; using terminology like “they,” “them,” “those people” is not okay. They are “we.” They are sons, brothers, and fathers. Dads of beautiful black, brown, and caramel girls and handsome sons. If you knew that you taking a knee in a football game (or at your workplace) could raise enough awareness necessary to make a systemic change that would save the life of your great, great grandchild, would you do it? Of course you would; WE all would.

Our brothers in the NFL taking a knee are no more protesting the United States, the flag, the anthem, or our soldiers – than Rosa Parks was protesting the transportation system, the bus, or the bus driver. Ghandi was not protesting the food, the farms it came from, or the farmers – he fasted to unite people in his nation formerly divided by color, religion, culture, and language. In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. took a knee on the sidewalk in Selma, Alabama not because he was dishonoring white people or our nation, but because he believed in the unity and equality of all people. Every single big social change started small – like a knee, a bus seat, a hope, a prayer.

Our Father in Heaven cares more about our heart, than our nationality. He made us beautifully diverse and unique. We are stronger together; and, we are the strongest when our hearts align with His. The Jesus I know would listen; He would lean into our lives and our hearts and soften them for each other.

If you’ve made it to the end of the article. I know it was long, and may be tough to read; but, I applaud you for reading through, for listening with your heart. I think we can all do a more of that. Pray with me, if you will…

Father, thank you so much that You have made us a unique and diverse people. Forgive us for fighting. Forgive us our negativity. Heal our hearts, Jesus. Start here, in me. Any place where racism or judgment based on the way someone looks, remove it. Blot it out. Let me see with Your eyes. Let me teach my kids that we are made in Your image, that we are all beautifully and wonderfully made. Help me to see Your face in the people I meet. Help them to see You in me. Change my heart first, then change our homes, our communities, our neighborhoods; heal our nation. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Dawn Sutherland

misfit-writer-speaker & social-justice-wannabe. I wander, but I'm not lost. I love Jesus not religion. My heart's cry is for every person to feel an empowered sense that they belong, and that we get to face the world wild and equipped with the love and hope of Jesus. I live in Suffolk, Virginia with my amazing husband, Louis and have four awesome kids: Katie, Ronnie, Selah, and Sami. I am also a passionate fitness instructor at the Suffolk YMCA. Subscribe to the blog, and stay tuned in for the book YOU BELONG to be published soon, which will talk about our desire as women to "fit in" and how we can harness that to change the world!

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