By Dan Ebener
The act of kneeling is once again at the center of national attention. When a black quarterback knelt during the national anthem to peacefully protest police brutality, many white people were outraged. When a white police officer knelt on a black man’s neck, allegedly causing his death, many black people were outraged.
Both were acts of kneeling. Both set off outrage across the racial divide. Yet there is no comparison in the moral authority of the two actions. However, consider how many people were outraged about the nonviolent approach of kneeling at a football game but are not so concerned about the killing of another black man by a white police officer.
With streets filled with protests, many of them becoming violent, it begs the question, what was so wrong with quietly kneeling at a football game? Why did the person who initiated such a peaceful protest become so vilified by the very people who are now offended by the violent approach to protest?
When we make peaceful protest impossible, we make violent protest inevitable.
When those in authority use the 1960s adage, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” it only serves to fuel the argument of those who favor violent protest. When counter-protestors throw rocks or fire weapons into a peaceful crowd of protesters, it strengthens the argument of those who see nonviolent protest as futile.
History shows that nonviolent social action has the best chance of achieving lasting social change. But it takes an incredible amount of fortitude and patience to take the nonviolent route. And it takes leadership.
Perhaps it is time for all of us to get on our knees. Those of us who are not subjected to the whims of some white police officers who hate people of color should get down on our own knees. Repent for our sins of omission, mindlessly accepting the advantages incurred by our position of privilege. Repent for the structural sins of a society that favors people with light skin.
Pray for a change of heart and mind.
In a society so devoid of moral authority, perhaps the most controversial thing we can do is to get down on our knees.
(Dan Ebener is director of planning for the Diocese of Davenport.)