The last time I took a knee was when I asked the woman who is now my wife to marry me, and even then it felt a bit awkward. So I'm not going to be kneeling because of what Derek Chauvin did to George Floyd in Minneapolis, however appalling that was, and however many other people decide to grovel accordingly.
I didn't kill George Floyd; in fact, I had nothing whatsoever to do with his tragic death (I've never even been to Minnesota), and I resent the accusation that I did simply because of the color of my skin and the color of his.
I'm not going to be kneeling because kneeling under such circumstances represents a form of self-abasement and submission that is inconsistent with human dignity. As a free people, Americans don't kneel in front of kings or queens or sultans and most certainly not in front of angry mobs. We don't seek absolution and pay penitence for crimes we didn't commit, and we should be embarrassed for those among us who do.
America's founding principles thankfully contain little room for the toxic concept of "collective guilt" that has been used to justify so much of the mass bloodshed in the human experience. What happened between a white police officer and a black man in Minneapolis probably doesn't tell us much about the rest of that city's police force, let alone the nearly 800,000 police officers spread across America, or about America as a whole.
We are told by our woke superiors that we either take a knee or admit complicity in racism (as if such an enduring plague upon the human condition could be so easily expunged), but there is no reason why our choice should be binary in nature; more specifically, no reason why we can't condemn what happened to George Floyd without condemning America. Indeed, the attribution of motives, let alone guilt, to tens of millions of people merely because of the color of their skin is itself inherently racist.
A belief in "white supremacy" might still exist in some of our rural hinterlands and in the creepier fringes of the Internet, but I've personally never met a single, even modestly educated person who embraces it, and am confident that the vast majority of white Americans view such notions with appropriate contempt.
Skepticism is also recommended when encountering the concept of "white privilege," given that so many of those currently renouncing it while on their knees are unlikely to actually give up any of theirs, particularly their pricey houses in neighborhoods with no black neighbors or the pricey private schools they send their kids to in order to avoid having black classmates. The renunciations are just for show, a symbolic means of saying I'm not as racist as those other white people, so go after them instead of me.
In Churchill's words, "Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last."
We are told again and again, usually without definitions of the thing or any proof to support the claim, that America suffers from systemic racism, but the thought also occurs that such accusations might serve as a convenient scapegoat with which to direct attention away from the serious problems in our black communities that have precious little to do with racism per se, most conspicuously the disintegration of the black family that began in the 1960s and all of the social pathologies that have flowed from it.
It is, after all, far easier to mouth slogans about white racism and to take a knee to signal our virtue than it is to come up with ways to put the black family back together or improve the quality of inner-city schools. And cops who patrol those inner cities and deal with the concentrated crime in them on a daily basis will always make easy targets for cheap criticism; until, that is, the crime comes for us and we frantically call 911.
Within this context, it is difficult to conceive of how any truly intelligent and thus useful conversation can be conducted about the police and American race relations in general without acknowledging that black violent-crime rates, especially for young black males, are many times that for whites. And it has always seemed peculiar that a movement called Black Lives Matter has been so uninterested in the fact that the vast majority of black Americans who are murdered are killed not by white police officers but other black Americans.
There will always be a need to fight against racism (along with all the other problems found in inevitably imperfect societies created by imperfect beings), but probably the worst thing we can do in that fight, defined as the most likely to backfire and thereby encourage the very thing we oppose, is what we are now so busy doing: simplistically and slanderously equating racism with whiteness in a country with a population that is overwhelmingly white.
Tremendous progress has been made in recent decades in dismantling obstacles to black equality, and that progress wouldn't have been possible without dramatic changes in the attitudes of white Americans who are now being accused of incorrigible racism.
Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.