Home Main Taking a knee: the NFL, protests, and the history of American Racism.

Taking a knee: the NFL, protests, and the history of American Racism.

Raiders at Redskins 9/24/17

Washington Redskins teammates during the national anthem before a game against the Oakland Raiders at FedExFeild.
Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison

By Andrew Gregg
Copy Editor

As more and more professional athletes rise up (or kneel down) to protest racial inequality in America, a lot of people are upset — most notably our moron dingbat man-baby president.

The protests began in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the 49ers, took a knee during the national anthem to protest police shootings of black men.

The protest has since gained significant traction and is sweeping the NFL, generating widespread support, as well as condemnation from those who feel that the protests disrespect veterans.

And for the umpteenth time since he announced his candidacy for America’s highest office, President Donald Trump found himself taking heat for what many perceive to be racially charged comments.

In a speech to a Huntsville, Ala. crowd, Trump condemned those protesting, calling them “sons of bitches,” and saying they ought to be fired.

And in another predictable yet monumentally pathetic move, he lashed out at Steph Curry, a champion NBA player who refused an invitation to the White House.

After Steph Curry disinvited himself by refusing the invitation, Trump, being the incomparably insecure man-child that he is, attempted to spin the narrative by rescinding an invitation that had already been rejected.

Presidential controversy aside, it is the substance of these protests that truly matters: Black Americans are, in fact, victims of racial discrimination, and they always have been. And this discrimination does manifest in policing.

The data on racially biased policing in America paints a somewhat predictable picture: Black men are “killed [by police] at disproportionately high rates” [compared to white men], and officers may be racially biased in how they perceive threats, according to a 2016 study by criminal justice researchers.

The study — conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of South Carolina — analyzed Washington Post data on police shootings.

It is true, as the study claims, that many whites are also killed shot and killed by the police each year; but once population sizes are adjusted for — blacks make up 13 percent of the U.S. population — black men are unquestionably singled out.

Additionally, black Americans who are shot and killed by the police often do not pose “an imminent lethal threat to the officers at the moment they are killed.”

To be more specific, black men may often pose less of a threat than white men do, and yet black men are shot and killed far more often.

The data confirms what these athletes are protesting about: black Americans are indeed victims of significant — and often fatal — racial inequality.

Some have argued that black Americans are policed more heavily because they commit more crimes — a claim which has some truth to it. This a superficial argument, however.

To understand the reason for the racial disparity in crimes committed, it’s crucial to understand another sordid aspect of America’s history of racism — which brings us to “redlining”: a racist real estate practice aimed at disenfranchising black Americans, as well as other racial minorities.

Between 1934 and 1968, the Federal Housing Administration denied mortgages to citizens based on race and ethnicity, according to the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston.

Redlining refers to the practice of drawing a red line around areas on the map which were predominantly black — areas where “financial institutions would not invest,” as the FHCGB put it.

Predictably, areas once subject to redlining often overlap with areas now prone to gun violence, according to a 2017 study by several researchers at the Penn Injury Science Center.

While more research needs to be done, the current evidence shows that appalling discriminatory practices throughout American history may end up causing modern-day problems.

Which brings us back to the protests.

Kneeling during the anthem is a representation of how the American Dream has been violently denied to blacks in America throughout its history.

By refusing to participate in the national anthem, these athletes are making a very literal point: some Americans have long been denied their rights and recognition as citizens and human beings for no other reason than their skin color.

By kneeling, they are refusing to honor a country that has historically refused to honor them.

If American values — liberty, justice, equality of opportunity — are to be more than glittering generalities, they must not be denied on the basis of race. When they are, protests are the logical — and morally correct — consequence.

The athletes who are exercising their right to protest such inequality should not be penalized, nor should the President of the United States hurl invective at them for doing so.

Whether the protests offend you or not, it is hard to argue against the evidence — that pervasive, systemic racial discrimination has led to gross injustices against blacks in America.

If protesting during a football game and making us uncomfortable is what it takes to get our attention, so be it. There is more at stake here than our comfort.