In a stirring and patriotic statement, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis commended athletes' protests for racial justice, and hinted that he and his colleagues may do the same in solidarity.
The #TakeAKnee protests from black athletes and others in support of racial justice captured the world’s attention as they grew in scope and significance following Donald Trump’s petty, vindictive response and his callous treatment of those protesting.
But it is not Trump — an extremely privileged white man who wears his bigotry on his sleeve — to whom we should listen about the value and importance of these protests.
Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia is a civil rights icon and hero who nearly lost his life after being severely beaten by police during a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And he has been at the forefront of the resistance in the Trump era — despite Trump’s hateful attacks against him.
Lewis knows something about protesting for equality and persisting in the push for justice in the face of violent opposition.
His assessment of these current protests, which he puts along the same trajectory as those in which he himself took part, offers a moving and truly patriotic view of these brave men and women.
Speaking to MSNBC’s Joy Reid, Lewis also declared that, just as “a young John Lewis would kneel” if he’d been on the field with the coaches and players, so too might he and his colleagues today engage in a similar protest in solidarity.
LEWIS: It’s saying, in effect, that when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to say something. You have to do something. It’s guaranteed and protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. People telling us, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that.’ We have a right to do it.
Some of these people would have said, back in the ’60s, ‘Don’t go on the freedom rides, don’t participate in a sit-in at the lunch counter, don’t march on Washington, don’t march from Selma to Montgomery.’ You have a right to march. It’s protected and shielded by the flag.
REID: And would a young John Lewis, if you were among those players, would you kneel at the national anthem?
LEWIS: If I was on that — with that coach, with that owner, I would kneel with the players. A young John Lewis would kneel. And we may be kneeling in Washington in a few days to come. Maybe on the floor of the House, maybe in Statuary Hall, maybe in the Rotunda, maybe on the steps of the Capitol.
Indeed, one of Lewis’ colleagues has done so already. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas recently gave an impassioned speech on the House floor, slamming Trump’s racist comments about black athletes and stating unequivocally, “That is racism. You cannot deny it.”
And then she took a knee.
— Sheila Jackson Lee (@JacksonLeeTX18) September 26, 2017
What Lee began and what Lewis conveyed an intention to continue is a powerful declaration of solidarity, and a clear stance on the side of justice.
You do not look to the perpetrators of racism for answers about its prevalence and impact, and how to combat and heal from it.
You look to those who have suffered and survived under its violent oppression, and who call on all of us to see history happening before our very eyes — and to stand firmly on the right side of it.
As Lee said so beautifully, “I kneel because the flag is a symbol for freedom … I’ll stand with America because I kneel.”