It’s not that we’re not listening, we just can’t hear you. It’s not that we’re deaf, it’s just because what you’re saying is barely audible. You’re trying to tell us something, but it’s so faint that I can’t even call it a whisper. You share videos of your lost brothers and sisters and we can’t hear it. You kneel in nonviolent protest, and we can’t hear it. So some of you start screaming, “Can you hear me now?" by looting or resorting to violence, but we still can’t hear you. Why not?
Because you can’t breathe. There is a knee on the neck of your communities and you’re suffocating (“‘Stop the pain,’ a brother of George Floyd tells Congress: ‘I’m here today to ask you to make it stop,'” June 10). And when you can’t breathe, no sound comes out no matter how much you try to scream and shout. It’s no wonder we can’t hear you.
You may be looking up at me wondering if I will stand up to injustice so you can breathe. Did I personally commit the atrocities against your community that I’ve been witnessing? No, I didn’t, so my standing will not take the knee off your neck. I am, however, complicit. I am complicit because you can’t breathe, so you can’t be heard, and I’ve never lent my voice to yours. And it’s time. Enough is enough. So no, I will not stand. I will kneel. Not on you, but with you. I will lend my voice to yours — for now, until your own voices can be heard.
I will kneel during the national anthem. My choice to kneel is not out of disrespect for our armed service members, but because their service and sacrifices are being disrespected. When the principles for which so many people have fought and sacrificed are not being upheld, when our liberties are not equally applied to all of our citizens, when our intrinsic worth as human beings is not equally valued, our nation’s flag does not represent what it is meant to. I kneel not out of disrespect but out of grief.
I grieve for those who sacrificed their lives to acquire and protect liberties that are not enjoyed by all. I grieve for those who lost their lives because they were judged by the color of their skin. I grieve for those who live in fear and mistrust of those who are sworn to serve and protect. I grieve for those who have been shouting for generations without being heard.
When enough of us kneel with you instead of on you, then perhaps the knee cutting off the oxygen to your communities will be lifted. When that happens, I will stand. When you catch your breath, I will be standing there with a hand outstretched to steady you as you rise should you need it. And when you stand, I will stand in front of you and look you in the eye with open ears and an open heart. You will be able to breathe again, your voice will be back, and you can be heard. And I will listen because your voice is worth listening to. We just haven’t been able to hear. Until then, I will kneel.
Lee Hufnagel, Thurmont
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