Of course, I won’t be asked if I would make this choice, since I am not an athlete with a chance to participate at the Tokyo Olympics. But if so, I would definitely not take the knee and I take to freedom here to tell you why not.
First of all: taking the knee, basically called kneeling, is at its most positive a gesture of respect, making yourself smaller than the one or the idea you paying respect to. Many animals do this to confirm their submission to a larger, stronger and dominant animal. Speaking for myself: there are very few people, organizations or ideologies worth of kneeling for.
Secondly: I ask myself, does it help any cause to kneel? I really doubt whether it would make a difference. People often refer to the raised fists of Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics, to express their support for the black power movement and the discrimination of black people in the US at that time (basically the same issue like BLM, 53 years later). But ask yourself if that helped. As well as in reality, does or did it improve that situation, or even in helping to create awareness for the position of certain discriminated groups?
We are already very well aware of what and how that situation is and the fact that it still needs to be repeated 50 years later already proves that making a gesture at the Olympics does not help at all. The people who know and disprove the situation, don’t need to be more aware of it, and the people who support or sustain and keep that situation going won’t change anyway, no matter how many people kneel.
Thirdly: well-intended gestures sometimes have an opposite effect. I bet you don’t remember the 1936 Olympics, but there most athletes, coaches and officials gave the Nazi-salute, they raised an extended arm as a gesture of respect for the organizers. In this case the Nazis whose behavior at that time was, compared to what they had in mind and did later, not dramatic yet. An innocent gesture supported a political movement that turned out to be very evil.
Fourth: Black lives matter indirectly implies that any other lives matter less. If one states: tall people are very smart, this implies that short people are less smart. But I get the impression that there is also a sharp distinction here: black lives only seem to matter if a black person is killed by a (white) policeman. If a black person is killed by another black person that doesn’t seem to matter that much. One example only: I can remember a recent killing of a black security guard by black criminals. A courageous, well-intending, good and innocent black citizen was murdered by thugs, but no outcry from the BLM movement here, no demonstrations, no great funeral. Did his life not matter to black people?
Now think very hard about why this happens. I don’t think the rampages and looting related to BLM demonstrations support the cause. I also don’t understand how stealing a big screen TV or the latest Nike sneakers would to anything to improve the situation of black lives. I think it only confirms prejudice and worsens the situation.
Fifth: BLM is mainly a US issue, not in large parts of Africa, Latin-America, Russia or China, even though black might be replaced by any other color of skin.
Sixth: black lives do matter, but it is not only black people who are being discriminated, what about women (50% of the world’s population, our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and nurses) discriminated since the origin of mankind, other people with a different color of skin, religious groups, LGTB, political ideologies, etc. Yes, there is a lot of work to do for mankind if we want it to turn into a better place. If I ever would kneel, I would kneel for all the people on this planet being killed, tortured, harassed, mutilated, discriminated, suppressed, degraded, neglected and underpaid.
Was reading De Kunst van Presteren (great read) and thought I’d check your blog, was going to leave this alone but I can’t.
I agree on the one hand that the almost inextricable need for a movement to have an aesthetic is jarring to me, and I speak as someone who’s family were in the black panthers in the UK and Caribbean.
That being said and in no particular order – your 3rd point (comparison between ‘well meaning’ nazi salute in respect of hosts vis a vis taking a knee is ridiculous. This is comparative to countries such as England touring apartheid South Africa in solidarity with the institution of cricket and to somehow uphold the university of sport. (Please justify away)
This optic seems to inform the rest of your points, the implicit rational being that the overarching motivation or coming to the fore of social histories aren’t worth acknowledging as they do not fit into a European/Calvinist point of view.
Yes an innocent black security guard being killed by a black man, as any innocent person being killed by anyone, is a problem but wilfully putting that against the backdrop of unrest stemming from deep rooted social/historical injustice is nonsense.
I could go on about the other points but I’ve written too much already, just to say that the interesting celebrations such as Black Pete in Holland or the celebration of the expulsion of the Moors in Spain go a long way to explain the psyche and subsequent barriers that many have when broaching these matters.
Easier to speak of minorities and rioting.
I continue to enjoy your works yet find it interesting that one of your more recent elite athletes Mujinga Kambundji has been very coy when discussing your parting.
It is what it is, let’s get faster.