Take a knee

Tacoma citizens take a knee in protest for Black Lives Matter. (Photo by Olivia Oldham-Smith)

Justice is slowly making its way into America. Starting from when our Founding Fathers wrote the U.S. Constitution, there has always been racism, inequality, and injustice. Our society has been taking many actions to make a change. We have made great advances throughout American History, but we are not quite there yet. Peaceful protests have changed the way Justice has been served.

Protests have been happening for decades. One of America’s greatest examples of a peaceful protestor, who many consider started the Civil Rights Movement, is Rosa Parks, an African American woman who wanted to see change. On the First of December 1955, Rosa Parks decided to sit in the front of the bus where only white people could sit. Her refusal to give up her seat and move caused an uproar because black people could only sit at the back of the bus. Rosa Parks’ fearless gesture was a peaceful action that was so transformative. It helped others question why people were segregated based solely on the color of their skin. This iconic event started nationwide efforts to try and end racial segregation. It resulted in the civil rights movement, which led to many other historical events that helped minorities attain equality in our country.

Nearly 60 years later, Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback, took a knee during the National Anthem which continued to change our world. His goal was to protest police brutality, racial injustice, and systemic inequality. That harmless action immediately attracted national attention, to include being publicly berated by the President of the United States. Many Americans believed Kaepernick’s action was hateful towards our country and disrespectful to the military, while others applauded his motives.

This peaceful, yet extremely controversial protest, turned into a political hotspot for the past five years. Colin Kaepernick simply took a knee to call attention towards racial inequality, which was peaceful, and by no means harmful or dangerous, as some sources had called. In an interview with the New York Times, Kaepernick said, “We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”

After Kaepernick’s knee protest, athletes from both the professional and amateur ranks followed his lead. Colin Kaepernick became the new face for civil rights. Bringing attention to a cause in a public way changed how people called for justice. Activists did not take revenge by attacking and killing the police, rather they knelt in a peaceful manner that got their point across. This action did not prevent more unjustified deaths of Black men and women at the hands of our police force, but it did influence a wider recognition of the topic of police brutality and injustices. More and more people wanted to educate themselves on the cause and find ways to get more involved, especially America’s youth. Had this peaceful protest never happened, our country could possibly be in the same place it was five years ago and the topic of justice being served would still be neglected.

At the end of May of 2020, following the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis Police Officers, the word “protest” could be heard and seen on every news channel and newspaper article. Hundreds of protests occurred within days across the country. Many of the protests began peacefully, modeled after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but angry citizens turned numerous protests into riots resulting in injuries and in some cases, death. Instead of fighting to get justice for George Floyd and other African American victims wrongfully killed by law enforcement officers, these rioters took advantage of the chaos and looted stores, lit vehicles on fire, and fought the police. Because of these unlawful actions by a few rogue individuals, the protests were now viewed by a large segment of our population as dangerous and unsafe. Peaceful protestors were lumped in with rioters and thugs and the country appeared more divisive than ever. There were hundreds of thousands of peaceful protests in parks and along city streets that caused no harm and were just there to recognize the importance of Black lives but some people still decided to look only at the riots and view the peaceful protests as bad just because riots were getting more news attention. Nonetheless, the protests from 2020 have called for more social activism than any other event in the past decade.

Senior Olivia Oldham- Smith said, “Peaceful protests are meaningful because they bring communities together, to create noise drawing attention to the social issues that are damaging our society today. Being a part of something bigger than yourself and enacting real change makes one feel less alone in this fight against the system.”

This new movement has opened the eyes of the average citizen of the racial injustices happening across America along with the awareness of police brutality, especially against innocent black lives.

These protests are changing American Justice. They have demonstrated how dehumanizing and corrupt our society can be, especially against the minority population. The millions of people chanting names like Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and so many more black lives illustrate how none of these innocent lives received the justice they deserve. Whether legally protesting or taking a knee, these peaceful methods bring much needed attention to the unjust causes that need to be seen and solved. We, as citizens, cannot allow our elected leaders to sit idle and do nothing while innocent people continue to get killed in our streets. Americans of all races, genders, and creeds deserve more from our government. We require a democratic system that treats all people with respect and dignity, and racism needs to forever be rooted out.

Unfortunately, this will take time, but simple acts like those of Rosa Parks and Colin Kaepernick are where it starts. These protests—peaceful ones— positively influence public opinion and brings about awareness of racism and police violence. Racism destroys our democracy, human rights, and the dignity of the individual. By recognizing the racism around us and taking actions such as participating in these peaceful protests, we can slowly help make change in our Justice system. As students, we have to stand up and make a change.