I have noticed a lot of major issues in which people seem to be putting all their energy into talking about the symptoms and not the underlying causes.
Perhaps the biggest example of this is taking the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) moment. I understand the word ‘symptom’ has negative conations, but it can just refer to the body fighting back against something nefarious, like vomiting out toxins. When athletes take the knee, they are responding to what they feel is racial inequality. Some commentators have dismissed the knee as “gesture politics” but the knee is intended to be used to show solidarity and send a powerful message of strength to racial minority communities around the world. Actions need to go with the message, but a message in a field as well-watched as football is pretty much guaranteed to lead to positive action due to the number of people that would watch it. The social media blackout in England was one such positive action, as were the repairs to Marcus Rashford’s mural and the positive messages left for Bukayo Saka and the solidarity they showed.
Yet, as we saw there were people who refused to watch the England side at the Euros over the taking of the knee. Or at least said they would. My take as someone from a racial minority is that I don’t really like the symbolism of kneeling down and I would much rather stand up, but if another individual wishes to take the knee, they are not harming my basic rights and freedoms, so power to them.
The obsession with talking purely about taking the knee seems to me, at least, rather pointless. Why talk about the gesture, and not what leads people to want to take it?
The words ‘marxism’ and sometimes ‘cultural marxism’ get banded about a lot as a reason to oppose the gesture. The latter concept comes from a far-right anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about attempts to subvert western culture and I would hope that an awareness of the origin of the term would correlate with a refusal to use it.
As for Marxism itself, I think distinctions need to be drawn between BLM, the organisation and BLM, the movement. To claim all supporters of the more general movement subscribe to all the aims of the organisations’ founders and by extension, actions of all that support the general movement is just absurd. It would be not too dissimilar to claiming all Irish nationalists supported the Provisional IRA, a preposition which completely ignores the existence of the moderate Social Democratic Labour Party, or to claim all unionists in Northern Ireland supported the loyalist paramilitaries, also one that doesn’t really reflect the reality of the Troubles.
As for the movement, instead of putting all supporters into silos and not engaging with them, they ought to be spoken to, both by levels of government whether central, devolved or local and individuals. There is a reason some of them feel the need to take action and they ought to be heard and understood so we can solve the issues they face. Shutting groups away does not lead to human progress. Openness and frank discussion will.
There have been several organisations and groups of activists who have done things I find unsavoury in the past, and this refers to a wide range of causes. Sometimes I agree with the general aims of the group, sometimes I don’t. But even with the more unsavoury actions, we don’t have to condone them in order to understand why they happened.
For the record, I don’t think taking the knee is unsavoury, no one is ever hurt physically or loses money or feels unsafe. I feel disappointed I have to spend a lot of time reading and thinking about this because it’s not the main issue. It’s very secondary to the issue of racism and racial inequality. I don’t believe anything someone cannot control should be used against them and race and ethnicity are included in that.
The cause is a feeling that people from minority backgrounds do not live in an equal society. The knee is the response or symptom. That cause is what the focus must be on. Why are people feeling like that? What can be done to help? We can only answer those questions by asking them and talking rather than just blanket dismissing the whole movement as subversive Marxism. If individuals want to live in a society where all have peace and dignity, they must understand first what is blocking that.