Taking a Knee on Campus

By Inside Higher Ed

September 29, 2017

Taking a Knee

It's unclear if college football players will follow the lead of players across the National Football League who protested by kneeling or locking arms during the national anthem before games Sunday and Monday. But the past week has already seen multiple instances of students, faculty and staff taking a knee in an effort to replicate former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s original protest, which started last year and is aimed at protesting racism and police brutality.

While those involved in college athletics might face obstacles - logistical or otherwise - if they’re seeking to protest, students, faculty and staff members have taken the protest off the field since Kaepernick’s original protest caught on among NFL players and other professional athletes.

Though other NFL players, as well as members of the WNBA's Indiana Fever and Phoenix Mercury, joined Kaepernick last year, the protests did not previously occur on the wide scale seen Sunday, after Trump on Twitter demanded that players who protested during the anthem be fired.

Sunday’s protests were one of the inspirations for Dana Greene Jr., a graduate student at Michigan, to take a knee in front of an American flag on campus from 7 a.m. Monday until 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, in a protest that drew hundreds of others throughout the day who knelt in solidarity with him.

“My knees feel like crap, my body hurts,” he told Inside Higher Ed Tuesday afternoon. “You would think I’d be dead exhausted, and I was, but I also feel energized.”

Greene said he was protesting against specific instances of racist graffiti and anti-Muslim rhetoric on campus, but also against injustice against people from marginalized or minority groups.

Greene said he felt supported on campus, though not everyone agreed with him. He noted a conversation he had while kneeling with a student who thought his protest was disrespectful since it was in front of the flag. Although they didn’t come to a consensus, Greene said he was happy they could talk about it respectfully, and that the student wanted to learn why he was protesting.

“The idea of America is a great one, and I believe in it, but in our current state of affairs, we’re not living up to it,” Greene said. “For the first time in my life, I feel like we’re taking a step back. We can do better.”

The controversy around protesting by taking a knee in front of the American flag or during the national anthem, Greene said, needs to be unpacked as well.

“If we’re more upset about how people are protesting and not why they’re protesting, then that’s part of the problem,” he said.

Read more: Taking a Knee on Campus 

This article was originally published on Inside Higher Ed.

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