Many thanks to commenter Prime for the link to this powerful piece by Michael Harriot.
Many people were surprised when President Donald Trump suggested that NFL team owners fire players who quietly choose to sit out the national anthem before games, but I was not one of them.
Even though they thought they’d solved the anthem problem by blackballing protest starter Colin Kaepernick, the residual insolence displayed by the players roiled white people to no end because their protest was so disrespectful—not to a 250-year-old cloth logo or a Francis Scott Key bar song. Taking a knee is disrespectful to whiteness. It is not that white people can’t understand Kaepernick’s point of view; it’s that—to them—any other point of view is nonexistent.
For future reference, we have put together this handy-dandy checklist for designing a protest that white people will find inoffensive and respectable.
Dahlia Lithwick seems to be channelling a lot of ideas from the silencing literature!
So, when Colin Kaepernick explicitly says time and time and time again that he is protesting police brutality, he is wrong. And when another player, Eric Reid, said on Monday that players are taking a knee expressly not to protest the flag or the military, but to protest the “incredible number of unarmed black people being killed by the police,” he is also wrong. What Sanders and Trump are saying here exemplifies one of the most grotesque aspects of unchecked privilege. It transcends even patronizing lectures about how black men should protest in such a way as to avoid offending white people. This is an attempt to dictate—with the threat of job loss—the very ability of some black men to have and maintain control over their own speech. What the president and Sanders are claiming is that they are better situated than the actual speakers to understand what those speakers are saying. That takes us from privilege to silencing, and it’s not a move that should go unremarked.