Your Protest Isn’t Working

Today David Brooks drew scorn for his post taking issue with Kaepernick and other athletes kneeling during the national anthem.

He concluded that kneeling during the national anthem is counterproductive to the goals of the protest. Instead of explaining and arguing for his conclusion, what followed was a convoluted rambling about the (White) American experience and civic duty so dripping with pretension you’d think you were reading a Tom Friedman column.

But I digress, I actually went into that article wanting to agree with the conclusion: that this protest is misguided and ineffectual. I happen to disagree with my fellow progressives on this one. Since David Brooks couldn’t argue his point, I will.

Progressives argue that the protest is Kaepernick and others first amendment right. Correct. On this I agree. They also argue that the protest has started an important conversation. On this I partly agree.

What conversation are we having on this issue? Are we discussing the act of the protest itself or the reasons for it? The former of course. In fact if you were to poll any reasonable number of Americans on why athletes are kneeling I’m sure many wouldn’t even know the answer. That’s because we’re not starting a conversation about racial injustice and police misconduct. We’ve started a conversation about whether this protest is patriotic, or whether it’s insulting, whether it even works as intended. We’re taking sides around the act itself, not the reason for the actions. That’s ineffectual protest!

Progressives will counter with, well when has a protest ever been convenient? It doesn’t need to be convenient. But it should actually lead to a discussion about the reasons for it. At least the Sit-In movement during the 60s made sense. The bus boycott made sense. This doesn’t make sense in the least.

A well conducted protest should lead to a spirited discussion, a movement for progress. This one hasn’t. There are so many other more effective ways to protest. How about Kaepernick marches with Black Lives Matter? How about Kaepernick follows through with his promise to donate to such organizations? How about Kaepernick mentors at risk youth through the thousands of such organizations that do so? Through these actions, Kaepernick could discuss the issues of racial injustice in a way that is far less polarizing and divisive than kneeling. He could protest in so many more effective ways.

So the protest is ineffective. It has forced people into debating the actions of Kaepernick as opposed to why he is kneeling. So many are disgusted by it that even if they were to agree with the reason for the protest, they’ve already been lost by the action itself. Kneeling on 9/11, a day we should be coming together and not discussing politics, is a repulsive action to so so many. Of those who got his message, they’re already in agreement on the issue of police brutality. It is merely reinforcing progressive beliefs in an echo chamber. But it’s not progressives who need to learn.

So congrats on your jersey sales Kaepernick, but I won’t commend you for this. It’s pretty much the Leftwing version of the Oregon militia protest of big government by camping in the woods. It’s so far removed from the thing you are actually protesting that the protest pretty much becomes ineffective. It winds up a discussion of the protest and the protestors as opposed to what they’re upset about. If that’s the case, your protest stinks. Kneeling stinks. Sorry that David Brooks couldn’t make the same simple argument.


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