Eight reasons not to kneel before Black Lives Matter movement - News24

22 August 2020 - Gabriel Crouse argues why he believes the eight South African rugby players who refused to kneel in support of Black Lives Matter weren't displaying a racist attitude.

Gabriel Crouse argues why he believes the eight South African rugby players who refused to kneel in support of Black Lives Matter weren't displaying a racist attitude. 


Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa saw eight Springboks stand with "Rugby Against Racism" T-shirts, but found this deeply suspicious. So, he called on SA Rugby president Mark Alexander to get on "the same wavelength". As Mthethwa explained, "one thing which cannot be tolerated is when somebody is displaying racist behaviour and showing racist attitude".

Are those who choose to stand for non-racialism rather than kneel for Black Lives Matter (BLM) "showing racist attitude"? Here are eight reasons why the answer is "No".

To many people, the act of kneeling is already imbued with a profound significance. Some will only kneel as a religious act in worship of the divine. Some will only kneel before their beloved to propose marriage. To such people kneeling before anything else would be an act of infidelity or misplaced subjugation.

 The Kneeler in Chief
The idea of kneeling before BLM has a particular genesis. United States (US) sports star Colin Kaepernick originated the practice of kneeling before BLM in 2016 and remains the most famous global athlete to do so. Nike sells Kaepernick-emblazoned shoes with the dates of his first BLM kneel imprinted on the soles. Yet Kaepernick endorsed violent "revolting" in the name of BLM since May, 2020.

To people who reject violent revolution, kneeling before BLM may signal solidarity with Kaepernick’s agenda rather than one that promotes peace and respect.

George Floyd
South African athletes did not kneel before BLM until a few weeks ago, so why now? Those who kneel to commemorate George Floyd avow the belief that if only he had been white then Floyd would still be alive today.

And yet Tony Timpa took a knee to his neck from police for 13 minutes before dying in Dallas Texas. Timpa was an unarmed white man whose death at the knee of police continues to be largely overlooked and went entirely unpunished.

From a macro, systems-based view studies have shown that unarmed black suspects are no more likely to be shot by US police than white suspects. The best-in-class study by Harvard’s Roland Fryer indicates that black people are roughly 25% less likely to be shot at than white counterparts under relevant statistical controls.

The presumption that Floyd was killed because he was black remains, at best, unproven, and at worst a distraction from the full extent and nature of police brutality in the US. Kneeling for Floyd in the name of BLM arguably makes it harder, not easier, to improve policing while reducing crime, as another Harvard study suggests.

Collins Khosa
South African athletes did not openly consider kneeling for BLM until the Nelson Mandela Foundation issued its game-changing media statement to argue that BLM is not just an American issue, but one that should be championed here too. In that statement, the Mandela Foundation not only excused violent BLM protesters, it also blamed the death of Collins Khosa on "white supremacy".

But South Africa’s police and army are racially "transformed" at rank-and-file level and are almost exclusively black among the top brass. Consider also the history of inflammatory statements made by police leaders to police officers at ministerial and Commissioner levels, including, "you have one shot and it must be a kill shot" and "even if you don’t have an arrest warrant, slap them. Break the law progressively and let me worry about the consequences".

50 people died in South Africa at the hands of security forces or in police custody in the first six weeks of lockdown. Many of these cases involved the National Coronavirus Command Council’s alcohol ban. To blame these deaths on "white supremacy" is pure scapegoating. To kneel before BLM in the name of Collins Khosa does worse than nothing to bring about the changes needed to secure a more effective and protective SAPS, while the real culprits walk free.

BLM Global Network
The BLM movement did not seize global attention ex nihilo. Its global following is the product of serious efforts made by the co-founders of the BLM Global Network, Alicia Cullors and Patrice Garza (self-described "trained Marxists"), and Opal Tometi (who met with Venezuela’s dictator Nicolas Maduro to cheer him on).

The BLM Global Network is worth at least half a billion rand and uses its immense clout to drive an agenda which explicitly calls for the abolition of private schools globally, the withdrawal of US military forces from countries under communist threat like South Korea, defunding or disbanding the police, and decriminalising all drugs, to name a few.

Why does this matter? The thing about kneeling before a king, queen or emperor is that one submits oneself to the leader entirely. To kneel before BLM Global Network is to commit oneself to a dangerous and already destructive army of revolutionaries.

That is not to say all who kneel do so for the BLM Global Network, but it is to say that some people may prefer not to kneel, as a way of distancing themselves from the revolutionaries.

South African non-racialism
Ever since Thabo Mbeki declared, in 2002, that it would be better for the Springboks to lose for several years than select a disproportionate number of white players, rugby has been under open political attack.

The attack is elitist. Most South Africans (of all races) oppose race quotas in national sport, as polling shows, and really just want the best team to win. But quota proponents dominate in Cabinet, Parliament and editorial boards. Taking a knee for BLM has already been seized by powerbrokers as an endorsement of their own agenda.

But the political attack on our common "green-and-gold" solidarity goes far beyond sport. The Constitution is under attack too. Expropriation without compensation is a race revanchist policy that BLM’s leadership aligns with on principle but which most South Africans (of all races) do not.

The hard reality is that there are competing ideas about what "social justice" means. To some, it means equality before the law, a good education system and police who protect the vulnerable from crime. To the most prominent and powerful BLM advocates, social justice means driving a wrecking-ball through the rule of Law. To clarify that one does not endorse the latter view, a reasonable person might decide not kneel before BLM.

BLM breaks what matters
Until now I have written about what kneeling before BLM could mean, but I have also highlighted that kneeling could mean different things to different people. Each person has the right to kneel if they like and to explain those actions in whatever terms they choose. Kneeling for BLM does not have to mean one endorses Marxism or revanchism or scapegoating.

However, Siya Kolisi’s effort to explain what BLM means to him personally was not encouraging, it was heartbreaking. To many. it was heartbreaking because he portrayed his own life as one in which he felt "I didn’t matter" ever "since birth" because he is black.

What I find heartbreaking is what it took for Kolisi to weave this narrative of abject emotional neglect on the basis of race. His grandmother, his first coach, his father, his Zwide township friends, his Emsengeni primary school friends, and his Grey High friends, sponsors, and teachers all get thrown under the bus alongside his very own tenacious work ethic in that BLM speech. Kolisi not only walked back on the courageous stand he earlier took against race quotas, but he also spurned the love that shaped him "since birth" to fit the BLM narrative.

Taking a Stand
Finally, it must be noted that we at the Institute of Race Relations know as well as anyone that there are deep-seated problems in South Africa resulting from racial discrimination and toil daily to persuade more people to stand up for non-racialism.

To realise this country’s promise of equal opportunity and secured individual dignity takes work, which is something more than a symbol or gesture. Kneeling, outside of its religious context, is a passive act, but what we need is a proactive effort.

Standing up physically, and metaphorically, against the pressures of 21st century race essentialism is also just a gesture, but not an easy one, as Minister Mthethwa’s suspicions demonstrate. Even if standing for non-racialism is just a symbol, it takes courage. And that matters, too.

- Gabriel Crouse is a writer and analyst at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).