I have now seen three indignant online responses to articles about social protest (two about Kapernick kneeling—one from my own beloved niece—and one about a kid who refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance in school as a protest and whose teacher hit him in response), and I’ve gotten to the full-to-boiling point, which means I’m going to write something. (I was taught to use my words and not to hit people with whom I disagree).
Each of these indignant responses wails about a lack of RESPECT (every time in all caps like that, because type-shouting is certainly a clear sign of respect) on the part of the person kneeling or sitting. There’s something going around among a certain segment of Rumpers about disagreement equaling disrespect, a kind of “sit down and shut up” attitude that makes my skin crawl even as it makes me laugh.
First, I would like to respectfully ask these folks where their respect was during the previous presidency. Where is the respect in (falsely) accusing—publicly, in the press–a person of lying about where they were born and demanding to see their birth certificate as proof of citizenship? Where is the respect in interrupting a political candidate while she speaks (“Wrong!”), or in looming behind her like a ghoul during her time to speak in a debate?
Where is the respect, I ask respectfully taking a respectful tone as a result of the utmost respect, in accusing trans folks—children, even—of wanting to sexually molest people simply because they’d like to use an appropriate bathroom (especially when straight men—not queers or trans folk—are by far the most frequent sexual abusers, even of boys)? Where is the respect in denying large segments of our population their human rights? Where is the respect in bombing a women’s health clinic because they perform abortions? Where is the respect in violently separating children from their families, putting them in cages and allowing several of them to die or be severely wounded in custody? Where is the respect when you condone your own police force beating and killing men of color because… wait, why, again? I missed that part.
Respectfully submitted: where is the respect in allowing the frequent beating and murder of trans women? Where is the respect in the Resident of the United States accepting the support of white supremacist groups (and then pouting because he’s been asked to stay away from a famous Black singer’s memorial)? Where is the respect in voting into office a person of whom there is ample evidence (including his own bragging) of the sexual assault of and unbridled disdain for women? Where is the respect in supporting someone who publicly mocks a disabled reporter and then does his best to take away medical care for disabled folks like me? Where is the respect in paying people wages according to their gender, ethnicity, or sexuality, or refusing to hire them entirely, even when a law tells you that you can’t? Where is the respect in gleefully creating, backing or voting for policies which will deprive people of human rights or safety?
Oh, golly, I could go on, quite respectfully, but I won’t. I’ll simply respectfully ask: where is the respect for those of us—POC, women of all colors, disabled folks, LGBTQ+ folks, immigrants and non-citizens, the list is longer than I can probably properly reproduce—with whom you disagree, or who dare to disagree with you? For those of us whose humanity you feel so comfortable to deny, whose cakes you refuse to bake, whose children you refuse to care about, whose human rights you refuse to recognize?
I respectfully think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of “respect” and social protest. Social protest that is respectful in everyone’s eyes is not social protest. Please look at the history. Social protest is meant to disturb the social scene, to call attention and to resist. What is the point of showing respect for a system against which you are protesting because it denies your humanity? The point of social protest is to disrespect the dangerous inhumanity of a system.
Respectfully, I’d like to say that when people refuse to “show respect” during the national anthem, they are not only doing their civic duty (please RESPECT American history, since that kind of lack of RESPECT is what founded this country), but they are protesting in the most civil, RESPECTful, peaceful, quiet way possible. Sometimes fighting in other ways is certainly the right choice, especially when lives are on the line. But sometimes, one chooses to do what one can in the space one has been given: kneeling, sitting, refusing to participate, even symbolically.
That choice deserves your respect. No, wait, I’ll write it so it makes sense in online vernacular: that choice deserves your RESPECT.