White America, It’s Time to Take a Knee


For two years I’ve watched lots of white Americans lose their minds in response to Colin Kaepernick and other NFL player’s peaceful National Anthem protests. I’ve seen them question these young men’s patriotism, malign their motives, attack their methods, and treat them with the kind of open contempt usually reserved for serial killers and child molesters.

For simply taking a knee during a football pre game in an effort to foster a conversation about the deaths of young men of color at the hands of police, these men have been made into the enemy by so much of white America. In some twisted, ironic, almost laughable missing of the point—it’s somehow become the angry black man’s fault for disparaging his country.

And ever since these white people first expressed the initial outrage (the kind they’ve sustained and that has resulted in Kaepernick still being unemployed), I’ve been looking to these same people for some semblance of grief at the unapologetic racism on display in this country, some anger at the pattern of supremacy and privilege in this Administration, some outrage at the sickening deja vu Americans of color are experiencing.

But I’m finding none of these things. Instead I’m finding victim blaming and rationalizing and elaborate efforts to tell us why our eyes aren’t seeing what they’re seeing.

I know what my eyes see. I know what they see over and over and over again.

They see humanity ignored, they see fear metastasized, and they see white people excusing away violence and discrimination and murder—instead of facing the brutal truth that maybe institutional racism is real and maybe Colin Kaepernick and his brethren are worth listening to, and maybe they shouldn’t be vilified outliers who we’re trying to shut-up.

Maybe we should all be kneeling right now.

White friends, if your immediate response to the shooting of a man or woman of color is to try and justify why he or she is dead instead of asking why they were shot, you may be the problem here.

If you’re more comfortable calling out kneeling football players than marching nazis with torches, you may want to ask why that is.

If you’re more incensed by a black reporter’s assertion that the President is a supremacist, than the fact that he is endorsed by supremacists, I’d look at that very carefully.

If you aren’t greatly burdened with grief for the families of people of color and you aren’t moved with compassion for the way scenes of their premature passing, repeatedly remind people that their lives don’t matter—you need to ask yourself some difficult questions about your own patriotism, your own appreciation of freedom, your own civic responsibility. You need to ask yourself whether you’re really for Liberty—or just for your whiteness.

Because from where I’m standing, I see Colin Kaepernick and those like him doing what many of you aren’t doing. I see them trying to keep more people from dying. I see them doing something to stop the bleeding instead of trying to make peace with it. I see them being the best of America in the face of the worst of America.

Right now we should all be taking an unflinching look in the mirror, white friends.

We should be digging deeper and facing our own acquired blind spots and inherited prejudices, and acknowledging the deeply embedded privilege that makes those things so very difficult to assess on our own.

We should stop defending songs and flags and pre game ceremonies, and some cheap, ornamental nationalistic pageantry—and actually be about the work of life and liberty that those things are all supposed to point to. We should be binding-up wounds instead of people of color, instead of heaping on the salt of shame and disdain.

And instead of demonizing Colin Kaepernick and blaming shooting victims, and instead of shouting down our brothers and sisters of color as they mourn—we should be listening to them.

More than that, we should be saying with our presence and our pain and our social media voices and our dollars, that we are grieving alongside them; that this is not okay with us, that this is not the America we want either.

The NFL and the President should see both us this weekend—acting in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, affirming the deep patriotism he is actually living out at great cost, and visibly opposing the ugliness of systemic racism—the root of the former’s shunning of him and the latter’s public ugliness toward him.

We should be showing such unity every single day.

Our brothers and sisters of color should not be kneeling alone anymore.

Today white Americans, we should all be taking a knee.

(NOTE: This piece was originally published in September of 2016. The only modifications made, were to update the length of time since the initial protests and include recent events pertaining to the protests.)


Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.


Get John’s Email Newsletter

Receive regular updates with speaking dates, media links, book launches, shareable graphics, and regular content regarding stuff that needs to be said.

“if Order Now:
AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Thoughtful ChristianWJK Books

720 thoughts on “White America, It’s Time to Take a Knee

  1. White people? This is a Racist article! There are many blacks that do not agree with these athletics protesting our flag and anthem. There are better ways to get your message across. You sir are promoting hate and being racist against whites!

  2. It comes across like a Westboro protest at a military funeral. I’m sure those protestors feel perfectly entitled to disturb people honoring their dead family member who served their country. It’s their right to do so. They have a message, and in the end maybe they could be right, but the approach is all wrong.

  3. Apparently the flag and the anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance are only for the military now, and the rest of the populace can go feck ourselves. Most countries’ flags represent the citizenry entire. The pledge I learned was, as far as I remember, “to the Republic,” which I did think included more folk than just the military. And they say the U.S. doesn’t have a caste system.

    Perhaps some of these commentors should look up the lyrics of the subsequent anthem verses we DON’T sing, and think about which rote recitations include who, and perhaps, in thinking, make things a little less rote.

  4. I’ve never blamed the color of my skin for anything bad that’s happened in my life… Does it matter what color I am?

  5. ***I am a vet, not offended by the gesture, and I understand racial discrepancies in the CJ system, but here me out here***

    How the message is received matters, and you really have no control over how someone perceives that. And you can’t hold someone else at fault because the message wasn’t crafted to be “heard” a certain way by a specific audience.

    There is likely an abundance of people who would have agreed that the criminal justice system is full of flaws that need to be addressed, but the protest was laid on top of a moment that has an entirely different set of symbols/values to different people. The message got drowned out by the other symbolism that interfered with the original statement. You shouldn’t spit on someone else’s value system, then blame them for not understanding the message that wasn’t adequately conveyed in the first place. If I had a goal to improve the gender pay gap, I wouldn’t start holding christian crosses upside down to show my protest of the bible, which I maybe felt was a factor in creating a patriarchy in our society.

    • Come on, man. These people are going to criticize protesters no matter how they protest. It doesn’t get much more peaceful than kneeling. That’s not spitting on someone’s value system. Rather, I feel the reaction to these players kneeling highlights and underscores some real character flaws in this country that we are allowing to be blamed on irrelevancies. Like kneeling.

  6. Im not going to take a knee. I dont give a rats ass about sports, and those that play them. People can protest however they want, as long as its legal and its not violent. They should also understand that there are consequences for their actions. Last thing, I REFUSE to feel any kind of guilt for anything that has happened in the past or present that I am not personally responsible for. I owe NOTHING to anyone because of my skin color.

  7. The protest is not about black men being shot. If that was the reason they would be protesting about playing in big cities where black me, are shoot by other black men every day. Those shot by police are a very small number compared to those shot by other blacks. If you want to complain about living conditions use your millions in salary and aid people in Africa. Or maybe some of those in your old neighborhoods.

  8. For those who believe in the false narrative of “police brutality”. Stop being sheep, educate yourselves.
    There are approximately 18,000 law enforcement agencies employing approximately 800,000 sworn personnel, across 50 states.
    I challenge anyone to tell me how law enforcement personnel conspire to oppress minorities, especially killing black suspects.?????

  9. Pingback: Odds and Ends - whoorl

  10. Pingback: Odds and Ends – Ruth Davis' OC Blog

  11. Pingback: Odds and Ends | joonchoiblog

  12. In the killing of those black men, the Police were justified. They were considered a threat due to their actions and the fact that they were not obeying the Officers orders. So CK was wrong to call out the Police as if they were specifically targeting black men. Trump called it like it like anyone with a decent bone in their body would. Fire him! And all I have to say about this is… people need to grow a thicker skin. This is pathetic and wrong. I’m sure Europeans are having a great laugh about all this. Grow up! Grow a spine and quit being a pathetic wimp who can’t tolerate it when someone says something you don’t like!

  13. What is the real reason people stand for the flag before games? It’s a reminder that we are all Americans first and that this is a friendly game. Without this reminder we will become balkanized. I would hope that you would treasure the God-given gift of being born in this country rather than calling the national anthem a “cheap, ornamental nationalistic pageantry”? And yes, it is a God-given gift – any one of us could have been born into terrible poverty where starvation occurs constantly. Or Africa where Colin’s ancestors came from where female genital mutilation occurs and where slavery occurs TO THIS DAY! So please stop with the cheap, heartless virtue signaling and support your country!

  14. Pingback: 'White America, it's time to take a knee' - The Trump Impeachment

  15. John, your opening sentence was misleading. You corrected it later, but the damage was done. They did NOT protest about the National Anthem, but about police brutality – as you later acknowledged. However, your FB post about this only showed the first sentence and most people didn’t bother to read any further.

Comments are closed.