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Rev. Barber on NFL Protests: MLK Kneels, Prophets in the Bible Kneel, I Kneel—It Should Be Applauded

StoryOctober 04, 2017
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We get reaction to President Trump’s attack on NFL players protesting racism from Bishop William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach and author of “The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement.” “The president is trying to change the issue,” Barber says. “Kaepernick knelt because he was saying the nation is not living up to its promise—one nation under God, liberty and justice for all—because African-American men, unarmed, are being shot—and women—in the street by people who have sworn to protect and serve.”

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you—I was in a barbershop yesterday getting a haircut. And while I’m waiting my turn, there was a raging argument between these other men waiting to get their haircut over this issue of the athletes kneeling and the Trump attack on the NFL players for kneeling for justice. I’m wondering your reaction to—because this is—this is in the heartland of America, where all of these football fans are crazed over the NFL. This is a major topic of conversation as to what these athletes are doing. And I’m wondering your reaction to the president’s attack on them and their actions, because they’re all multimillionaire ballplayers.

BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER II: Well, let’s understand that President Trump has consistently used racial code words and racial wedge issues to get an—I do believe he’s deeply a white supremacist sympathizer at best. And the reason I say that is because—first of all, let’s talk about race. We have to be careful, as I said, not to just talk about race in terms of interpersonal. A few weeks ago, we had the march, you know, at the statues. We had white nationalists in Charlottesville. But that statue was put up in 1917 to celebrate Woodrow Wilson, a white supremacist who played Birth of a Nation being in office. That statue was put up to celebrate “We have a supremacist friend in the White House.” So why is it that Unite the Right went to that statue? What are they saying?

Secondly, white nationalism is not about just “I don’t like you because you’re black.” It’s about policy. So, when people say, “Is someone a white nationalist?” I say, “Well, look at the policies of white nationalists. They are anti-immigrant. Are you voting against immigrants? They are anti-voter—they’re pro-voter suppression. Are you for voting policies that are pro-voter suppression? They’re anti-living wages for everybody. They’re anti-healthcare for everybody. They’re anti-gay. Where do you stand on the policy issues? Because you can be an accessory to the crime of white nationalism.”

Now, the president is trying to change the issue. Kaepernick knelt because he was saying the nation is not living up to its promise—one nation under God, liberty and justice for all—because African-American men, unarmed, are being shot—and women—in the street by people who have sworn to protect and serve. Dr. King kneeled. The prophets in the Bible kneeled. As a religious person, I kneel. Kneeling is a very sacred position. So, to suggest that somehow when you kneel you’re disrespecting anything is actually counterintuitive theologically. It should be applauded. Kneeling is very, very sacred, and especially when you’re kneeling to say, “I love the country enough to criticize it.” That’s what Dr. King said when he kneeled. “I don’t hate America. I love America. But love requires challenge, moral dissent. Love requires calling the nation into order. It is not blind allegiance.” And so, I think that Trump wants to switch the issue. What I hope is that all the players that are hooking up now and kneeling will also engage in voter registration, will also engage in the democracy, will also engage in challenging other policies.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there, but this is only Part 1. We’re posting Part 2 online. Bishop William Barber, president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, leader of the Moral Mondays and author of The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement.

Happy Birthday to Becca Staley!

Juan, you’re going to be speaking Thursday night at San Francisco State and at City Lights bookstore later that night, on Friday in Berkeley at Pegasus Books downtown. That does it for our show. Check out his tour at democracynow.org.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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