How many times do you remember seeing a story about an unarmed Black person being killed by police? If you’ve been paying attention, it’s more times than you can count.

It happens over and over and over again. We’ve gone through this so many times that the reaction has become predictable. The murder happens, those in power call for peace, and they promise reform and change. They ride out the candlelight vigils and then they go back to how it all was before. Not a damn thing changes.

Trayvon Martin was murdered. Nothing changed.

Michael Brown was murdered. Nothing changed.

Philando Castiel was murdered. Nothing changed.

Eric Garner was murdered. Nothing changed.

Atatiana Jefferson was murdered. Nothing changed.

The list of Black men and women being gunned down and choked out by our own government goes on and on and on. Colin Kaepernick took a knee for them. A simple and quiet gesture, a completely inoffensive way to protest. The President of the United States called him “a son of a bitch” and he is still blacklisted from the NFL.CC

Taking a knee by Colin Kaepernick is offensive while shooting unarmed black men is ignored by Drew Sheneman, Newark Star-Ledger

What’s worse: the country had become so accustomed to police murdering Black people that it didn’t just ignore his peaceful protests, it condemned them. 72% of the country called Kaepernick “unpatriotic.” People decided that kneeling during a song was worse than the government murdering innocent – typically Black – people. Quietly protesting didn’t work.

“A riot is the language of the unheard.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The tragedy of George Floyd’s murder is not just his death, but that it is not unique. It isn’t even the first video we’ve seen of an unarmed Black man being choked to death by the police – Eric Garner’s murder was only six years ago.

So when it happened, that oh-so-predictable response rang out: protest peacefully. And so we did. Despite past protests being ignored, people took to the streets all across the nation. But this time it was in numbers that haven’t been seen in generations

How are the police responding to these protests against their brutality? With brutality.

They’re teargassing peaceful protesters; they’re arresting journalists who are filming live on TV; they’re shooting people in the face with rubber bullets. We are being shown, in real time, the very police brutality that has caused these protests.

This is exactly what Colin Kaepernick was trying to bring attention to and he was demonized for it. The country told him he was wrong and “unpatriotic.”

So if you’re one of those white Americans who condemned Kaepernick’s quiet knee, do you get it now?


Image Credit: Feature image of some members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the National Anthem before a game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on October 15, 2017 in Landover, Maryland by Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA – via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons); Taking a knee by Colin Kaepernick is offensive while shooting unarmed black men is ignored by Drew Sheneman, Newark Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.) appaIoosa via flickr (Creative Commons) #BlackLivesMatter #TakeAKnee;


Matt Blakely

Matt Blakely is a political consultant and strategist based in Atlanta, Georgia. He focuses on Democratic campaigns and progressive causes.