In many organized sports, when a player is badly injured, as a sign of respect and concern, all other players take a knee. The cheerleaders of both teams cease to cheer. The bands do not make a sound. A hush falls over the crowd. All eyes are on the man or woman who is down. Everyone pauses as they anxiously wait to see if the hurt player is okay. If and when the injured player is able to get up, a relieved crowd offers up a thunderous applause.
When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick explained his recent choice not to stand for the national anthem, he said, “There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Over the last couple of days, we have learned of yet another body in the street, this one belonging to Terence Crutcher.
Once again, Black America is down. My social media news feeds are full of hurting, badly injured African-American people. Some are showing the video of the killing, others are too sick and tired to view yet another gruesome scene. All are expressing pain and outrage that this continues to happen in a country whose flag many citizens demand that we honor.
Sometimes I wonder, has anyone noticed that Black America is down? The wind has been knocked out of us, yet again. We are hurt, badly. Pained to the point that we are having trouble pulling ourselves back up.
Yet no one takes a knee in a show of concern or respect for the injured. No referee blows his whistle to suspend play. No medics rush to offer their assistance. The other players continue to run around the injured body lying in the middle of the field. The band plays on. The crowd continues its chatter, some about frivolous matters such as concession stand offerings, some about how the play could have been executed differently in order to prevent injury, and some about how Black America never was a very good athlete anyway. Meanwhile, there is a player – supposedly one who is valued just as much as every other player – lying on the ground, unable to move.
In a recent interview with Roland Martin, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte said that he would love to see “a few hundred other black athletes” protesting by not standing for the national anthem. He then expanded his vision beyond athletes to include the black community and finally the American community.
I would love to see it, too. I would love to see more people refuse to stand for the national anthem until America lives up to its ideals. But even beyond that, I would love to see people of all races take a hypothetical knee when an innocent black person is killed by racist police officers and vigilantes.
Black America cannot keep taking these deadly hits and picking itself up off the ground while everyone looks away or makes excuses. I have often heard people of other races say they don’t discuss the issue because they have no idea where to begin in the fight against racism. To you, I have a suggestion: take a knee by acknowledging black pain and refusing to resume business as usual. Be bold enough to utter the words “black lives matter.” Be courageous enough to post a social media status calling out the injustices. Challenge a friend who makes excuses for the deaths of innocent black people. Be a safe place for a black friend to talk about their hurt. Write your Congressmen. Write bad reviews on the Facebook pages of guilty police departments like you do when woodchucks are unfairly killed. Share this post. Do something to show you realize the debilitating hurt of the African-American community and that you will not resume play until the nation has put an end to our pain and helped us back to our feet. If you care at all about our well-being, find some way to take a knee.
SheryLeigh is a woman who loves God, words, and people. She is currently living and loving as an author, blogger, poet, and spoken word artist in the Washington, D.C., area.
A communicator by education and trade, SheryLeigh holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Howard University and a Master of Arts in Management from Webster University.