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Opinion: Taking a Knee is an American Right

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Raymond Strawn III

I support kneeling during the National Anthem, because it is a respectful and peaceful way to protest. Our country was built on revolting when our rights were ignored and violated from the British, and there isn’t anything more American than revolting and protesting for our rights.

When I was in high school in 2002, I sat during the Pledge of Allegiance. My teacher demanded that I stand, and I refused. I was protesting, and I continued to sit until my parents found out. They told me to stand because I was bringing the wrong kind of attention, and only putting a bigger target on my head. In 2001, my civil rights were violated from law enforcement and I was suing. That is why my parents wanted me to stand, to not bring more attention to me. That is why I sat, to protest over my rights being violated.

Being a father, I decided to stand during the Anthem when I was with my children. I didn’t want them to be exposed to any negative attention from my actions. Back then, it was unheard of to sit during the Anthem, and now, I am considering kneeling. As my children are getting older, kneeling is common now, and the oppression from law enforcement continues.

In a span of several years, I had been stopped and searched by law enforcement about six times. My crime? Walking. Two years ago, I was at an event with my daughter, and a police officer was being rude to me in front of my daughter. She then ran off, out of my sight and I asked the officer if I could follow her. The officer refused. Now I was illegally detained and I did not know where my daughter was. I filed a complaint to the sergeant. The sergeant verbally abused me and refused to take my complaint. Therefore, I support kneeling.

Even with my long history of bad experiences, I am not against law enforcement. Last year, I helped organized an event at my community college that created goodie bags for law enforcement. We went to the sheriff station and handed them out. We wanted our local law enforcement to know that we appreciate the difficult job they do and wanted to thank them. It was a gesture of respect. Is it too much to ask for the same in return?

Those who are opposed to kneeling state it is disrespectful. I counter with this: is it disrespectful for police officers to continue violating civilians’ rights? Is it disrespectful that police officers are not held accountable and continue to get away with their behavior? Change is badly needed. The only way anyone is going to care and listen is by peaceful protest. Many have criticized when protests were not peaceful. Kneeling during the Anthem is peaceful. Isn’t that the type of protesting you want?

When did taking a knee become a sign of disrespect anyways? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, to bend a knee is also called genuflect. The other definition of genuflect is “to be humbly obedient or respectful.” During medieval times, knights would take a knee in front of lords as a gesture of respect, loyalty, obedience, and to pledge allegiance. During some religious ceremonies, taking a knee is considered more respectful. When someone proposes to his or her significant other, he or she takes a knee as a sign of respect and surrendering. When a player is injured on the field, players from both teams take a knee as a sign of respect. On June 11, 2004 US Navy Captain James A. Symonds presented former First Lady Nancy Regan the folded American Flag from her late husband, Former US President Ronald Reagan, by taking a knee, according to the National Archives and photos taken during the event. If taking a knee is so disrespectful, why would a US Navy Captain take a knee when presenting a folded American flag from a former US President to his wife?

Taking a knee is a sign of respect. Peaceful protest during a time of oppression and unrest is an American pastime. I’m sorry if some of you may feel uncomfortable when someone is protesting by taking a knee during the National Anthem. But if you are not uncomfortable enough to the point you are burning jerseys and making bans about the mistreatment towards US citizens, that is the problem. And that is why we peaceful protest. That is why we sit. That is why we take a knee. You want us to stand during the Anthem, then stand with us when we demand respect, change, and to be treated fairly and equally in this country.

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