Dear Liberals, with a carbon copy to any and everyone else who might spew the same misconstrued rhetoric in conversations surrounding social justice:
Racism and bigotry are not part of a new phenomena caused suddenly by the 2016 Election and inauguration of Donald Trump.
What I am stating should be the obvious, so I may be reading as pretentious. Given the monolithic state of Black History lessons, we know about the Middle Passage and enslavement of African-Americans. We know about Jim Crow laws and segregation. We know about the non-violent part of the Civil Rights Movement (as though, not to disrespect their work and legacy, MLK and Rosa Parks were the only leaders with clout). All of these events took place between the early 1500s and mid-1960s, so the fact that racism has been around for a long time is common knowledge.
So why do I see the same conversations amongst liberals, blathering about how Donald Trump tore the nation apart?
Before continuing, yes, Donald Trump mobilized his campaign on bigotry and continues to empower his racist supporters today. From dubbing the white supremacist belligerents of last month’s Charlottesville riots “very fine people” to pardoning the racist ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Trump has condoned violent hatred that overtly upholds the oppressive systems ingrained in American society.
But making Donald Trump’s blatant ignorance the focal point of our protests, rather than the aforementioned systems intact that fuel his fundamentals, is futile and shallow.
Look at this in light of the shiny new ‘Take a Knee’ hashtag. During a speech he gave at a rally for a Republican Senate candidate on Friday, Trump made hotheaded comments about NFL players who do not stand during the National Anthem, stating, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now’? Out! He’s fired! He’s fired!”
In wake of the President’s comments, a number of sports players followed the example of Colin Kaepernick, who stopped standing for the anthem in August of 2016, and began to lock arms and kneel during the anthem. Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy took it a notch further and opted to continue stretching while the anthem played in the background.
While dissent is always interesting, and it’s nice to finally see more support, it is vexatious to see what taking a knee has become. When you type “Trump protest” into Google, the first autofill suggestion to appear is “Trump protest NFL.” This is a problem because it changes the narrative that surrounds taking a knee. It completely belittles the entire reason Colin Kaepernick took his stance in the first place — to protest the maltreatment of Black people in this country — and turns it into the same petty anti-Trump protests we’ve been seeing since the ninth of November, 2016.
In his most recent livestream, YouTuber AdrianXpression said, “Colin Kaepernick put everything on the line… and you h** didn’t do nothing, until it was cool. Until is was fun. Until it was ‘Yeah, f*** Trump!’”
I see no lie in his statement. Why did it take Donald Trump speaking his nonsense for the rest of the league to band together and imitate Kaepernick’s actions? Why were the issues of racial profiling and police brutality not enough? At this point, it seems as though everything we do is in response to Donald Trump; when Donald Trump is nothing more than a prophet to the problems we have been facing since white settlers claimed the “New World” as their own.
“Please understand that he was not out here protesting Trump, he was not trying to stick it to the administration. That was not his goal for bending his goddamn knee during the National Anthem,” Adrian stressed to his viewers as the stream continued. “He was trying to protest police brutality, especially police brutality against the Black community.” Kaepernick rejected a political tradition in order to bring awareness to the violence fledged against Black and brown bodies, and began doing so while Obama was in office. Turning it into an issue with Donald Trump as a singular force, or even a debate about the National Anthem, minimizes the message. Especially when Kaepernick proceeded to grow in his political stances and provide resources to the community.
did y'all forget that kaepernick started kneeling while obama was president??? it's not about trump
— porg (@EFFLORESCENE) September 24, 2017
Don't allow racists to reframe #TakeAKnee as being a debate about anthem & flag. It's a protest of police brutality & racism… 🙄
— Bree Newsome (@BreeNewsome) September 23, 2017
kaepernick has donated money, given platform, refused to go to israel, and his political rhetoric has increasingly sharpened. he’s lit.
— #August21 #PrisonStrike (@HalfAtlanta) September 23, 2017
It’s easy to point at someone in a position of power and blame all the world’s issues on them. That’s not to say Donald Trump does not contribute to the world’s misconduct; he is easily a compilation of the various -isms that plague our society, and it seems like he thrives on both internal and external conflicts. But turning everything into a Trump problem is counterproductive, and downright exhausting.
You can’t point to a time in American history where race relations were good. (Despite what elementary school history might teach, the First Thanksgiving was a trap and therefore not an example of “good” race relations). Sexism is international. The stigma against immigrants and religious minorities in America is long standing. As we’ve said since Trump announced his campaign slogan: America was never “great” by ethical standards. So why do we continue to center him as the cause for everything wrong with this place?
Going on, we need to regroup and shift our attention towards undoing the establishment that allows for people like Donald Trump to think and act the way they do. After all, when weeding a flower bed, the objective is to yank the problem from the roots, not to trim the stems.
Photo: Michael Reaves / Getty Images