Statement Regarding Selectwoman Melissa Schlag
July 27, 2018
Haddam, Connecticut Selectwoman Melissa Schlag, a Democrat taking a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance at the board of selectmen meeting earlier this month has set off a controversy that is gathering a chorus of voices reacting and responding.
We understand she was registering her disapproval over our current president’s comments regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election, and other policies put forth by his administration.
On the surface, the simple act of taking a knee during this most normal civil offering of public patriotism is troublesome for some. Individual deeds of dissention and collective reactions in the form of civil disobedience aside, for us, there is something far more nefarious afoot here.
While the political, cultural and ideological work of opposition is a noble endeavor, in the case of Selectwoman Schlag, there is the ever present yet elusive spirit of misappropriation mirking the waters here. We will not continue to allow this often repeated behavior to go unchallenged.
We feel compelled to respond.
In 2016, then, National Football League quarterback, Colin Kaepernick rose to prominence not for his athletic performance but for refusing to stand, actually seating on the bench initially then taking a knee joined by others while the United States national anthem was played before the start of NFL games. He described his behavior as a protest against racial injustice in the United States. Kaepernick explained his position clearly, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” referencing the series of events that led to the Black Lives Matter movement and adding that he would continue to protest until he feels like “[the American flag] represents what it’s supposed to represent.”
This action quickly sparked a national conversation enticing then presidential candidate Trump to wade in on an already heated discourse with racist edicts and vulgarity. After his election, he has most certainly continued.
Black Lives Matter.
In this current politically charge cultural climate, one must be aware to the fact that taking a knee represents solidarity with those who are in the struggle to address systemic and historic vestiges of racial wrongdoing. To take a knee oblivious to the work and effort of so many to redirect this message to center one white woman politician’s personal choice to register her oppositional response without any racialized consciousness is unacceptable. And then to add insult to injury, the suggestion of some that Selectwoman Schlag’s knee taking should be conflated or merged into the already establish fight for racial equality as if they are similarly situated is offensive. And to claim such a merger would strengthen both causes is outlandish.
As leading voices in the movement for Black Lives, we stand firm and unapologetic in naming and calling attention to these sorts of almost daily occurrences. We are strong advocates for fusion based collaborative work rooted in morality and mutuality not from a commandeering position of white entitlement. Justice work and racial justice work in this season should be known and recognized in one way for how we treat each other. As we move forward together, our on-going activities must be with an indistinguishable amount of honor, respect and regard.
Bishop John and Lady Pamela Selders
Co-Founders, Moral Monday CT