He took a knee…
—That line itself is far too much for one five-minute blog post to treat, especially on a page where the theme is values. The one fact of taking a knee is set within a larger context set within larger contexts.
Obviously that phrase opens the whole Colin Kaepernick, protest, racism, police overreach, patriotism, disrespect, etc., can-o-worms. My plan on this is to gradually unpack “He took a knee’ over the course of a few posts. —Then, too, this week’s violence and chaos interrupts and distracts. Prayers for the Tree of Life community, for their loss, and for all who face the hatred and violence of anti-Semitic bigotry.
First, let’s take a single fact…
OK, one fact on which most people can agree is that Colin Kaepernick ‘took a knee’ during the National Anthem portion of an N.F.L. football game. Further, doing so set an emotional, national conversation in motion. As I wrote last week, the first part of our awareness that reacts to any fact is our emotional brain [cf. the two Robin Koerner articles “Mistakes,” and “Changed Minds“]. This, in part, helps explain why Kaepernick’s act set off a fire-storm of reaction. Humans use an emotionally driven process to discern reality. Is it any wonder that gaining common agreement on what any particular culturally-charged fact actually means is complex and difficult?
—On this blog site I’m interpreting/narrating analysis through a developmental anthropology: that is a bio-psycho-social values systems model, e.g., “Spiral Dynamics” [SD]. I’m suggesting that SD can give us a window into how the stages of values development effect the way we process the facts we experience in common. SD offers us a structure with which we can have cross-values conversations [like Red ‘power,’ Blue ‘order,‘ Orange ‘merit,’ or Green ‘justice‘ values].
Constructive protest or destructive rebellion?
The answer to that question is a function of the values constellation operating within the person answering. Are rationality and justice one’s dominant values, or will order and patriotism be the key animating values of one’s values-constellation that drives thinking and discernment? —Note: a ‘values-constellation’ is like a musical chord of two or more values stages firing collaboratively within a subject, and is discerned and defined in relation to their history, development, and previous and present life conditions.
We remember that Colin Kaepernick had expressly defined his action of taking a knee a protest, and he made this plain before the initial act. So, a beginning question might be: Who gets to define what ‘protest’ means and how it applies in this, or in any case? That itself could be an entire line of inquiry. We’ll consider the case that this form of protest raises concerns for some in another blog post.
So, [setting other issues aside] if we accept and presume that taking a knee in the case of Colin Kaepernick is indeed a protest, then what does his protest concern? Kaepernick expressly stated the action is in protest of police overreach, brutality, and lethality toward black people. I do hope we can agree that if the police are committing acts of police brutality toward any particular group of people, using lethal force and killing individuals in a particular group at a disproportionate rate, then this would be a fit target for public protest. So, is this a legitimate, fit issue to target for protest?
In his book White Awake: An honest look at what it means to be white, Daniel Hill writes:
Race is a social construct, as explored earlier, and white supremacy is an ideology (or belief, theory, or doctrine) that has informed and sustained this construct. Said another way, the system of race in America has consistently treated white people as a superior race and has consistently treated nonwhites as inferior.
While this can be difficult to hear, it is not difficult to prove.
It’s not difficult to prove because an ideology of supremacy for one group quite naturally produces systemic manifestations of that ideology in the form of privilege if the “superior” group has the power to create policy and direct resources. With sufficient power the “superior group” will always accrue systemic privilege over time—objectively observable privileges. A system of white supremacy that helps constitute our cultural norms as a nation necessarily creates many injustices for nonwhite people.
Thankfully, we can utilize the precision of Orange [ER] rational values, and use ER‘s penchant to do scientific research, to examine the data, and to demonstrate the results that reveal the destructive, life-negating effects of systemic racial oppression. It is native to Orange [ER] to do this examination in verifiable, statistically reliable ways. Like the provable facts that blacks are significantly over-represented in categories of abuse through police overreach like brutality, use of lethal force, and death by police shootings—not to mention the grim story of mass incarceration.
A provocative admission…
I’ve not exactly made it a secret that I think President Trump’s speech and behavior are a blood stain on American politics. However, integral thinking recognizes that no one is a perfect fool or ever one hundred percent incorrect/wrong. With some trepidation I will say there is at least one silver lining that I see in the DJT dark cloud and it goes against the grain of fault-finding everything about everything-Trump. In an early blog post in this series (here) I quoted an extended passage from integral philosopher Ken Wilber that included an observation he made using Robert Kegan’s research. The gist of the passage was that just because the civil rights laws of the 60’s made many kinds of racial discrimination illegal, that does not mean the laws were able to change the hearts and minds of many of the people, or automatically change/eliminate the invisible institutions of systemic racism and white privilege.
Therefore, because of an age-old method of social control [shamming] that I have briefly outlined (here), an unintended consequence of the civil rights legislation made any idea of personal racism completely taboo in polite society. This drove any real acknowledgment of the reality of systemic racism underground and thus largely out of reach to any kind of effort to heal. White supremacy and systemic racism, admittedly, form the basis of a raw and ugly conversation. However, not talking about difficult, destructive things has yet to cause them to go away. I would argue that, ironically, DJT has made the pressing need for the difficult race conversation quite plain; and perhaps the urgency Trump reveals somehow makes it possible?
Stochastic terrorism is a thing?
Tough week. Partisan mail bombs. Anti-Semitic, domestic terrorist attack on Shabbat Services at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Directly on the heels of the mail bombs and synagogue shooting, on Saturday at a political rally in Illinois, President Trump’s response was to declare that we can make a difference [in these dark, domestic-terrorist-infused times] by installing armed guards in our houses of worship, and bringing back and strengthening the death penalty. In SD terms this reflects a strong authoritarian, Blue [DQ] ‘order‘ values response. It strips-out other, higher-order values with an absolutism and exclusive focus on the control dimension of Blue values expressed through a rigid, violent legalism. This represents a serious regression in our societal norms. That’s for another conversation.
Beauty and protest?
So, we were not able to explore much depth in one turn. I think it’s already safe to provisionally say that beauty and protest are both at least to some extent in the eye of the beholder. We’ll consider that, as well as other questions and concerns regarding ‘taking a knee’ in subsequent posts.
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?
Note: I know it’s ambitious trying to introduce a big picture idea in a blog format, so I’m using a serial approach. Introductory post (here). First in series (here).
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