The tale of two knees

by Timothy James Young 

I was sitting here in my 4-and-a-half-by-10-foot prison cell on San Quentin’s death row when suddenly I saw “breaking news” flash across the TV screen. To my horror, the image that followed was that of a white Minneapolis police officer named Derek Chauvin driving his knee into the back of the neck of a Black man named George Floyd.

I watched in disbelief as George Floyd lay face down in the middle of the street, handcuffed behind the back, and dying. I saw the final moments of his life tick away as the officer kneeled on his neck, made unprofessional comments and ignored his complaints of not being able to breathe. I watched as the last breath escaped his body and seeped into the dirty asphalt that lay beneath him. As the paramedics wheeled his lifeless body away, all I could think is why? Just why?!

Now that video footage of another Black man being murdered by the police has gone viral, people are starting to conjure up the image, the actions and the movement that was inspired by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Some of them have even arrived at an “aha” moment, and they are asking themselves: Isn’t this the very thing that Colin Kaepernick was demonstrating against? Isn’t this what he was trying to prevent? 

Yes, it was Colin Kaepernick who took a knee during the national anthem to draw attention to the systemic racism that Black people in this country are subjected to. And yes, it was Colin Kaepernick who risked his career, so that people like George Floyd would be able to grow from concrete, as opposed to being choked by the police and forced to give his last breath to it.

It’s easy for Americans to look through the lens of hindsight and see that Colin Kaepernick was standing on the right side of history, but let us not forget that he was vilified by the American press. Let us not forget that he was called a “son of a bitch” by the president of the United States. Let us not forget that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg referred to his peaceful protest as “dumb and disrespectful.” Lastly, let us not forget the image of Jay-Z giving a press conference with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, where he announced that “we have moved past kneeling.”

In the tale of two knees, Kaepernick used his to make Black Lives Matter. Officer Chauvin used his to make Black lives nonexistent.

Officer Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. I wonder if he will be vilified by the media? I wonder if he will be called a “son of a bitch” by the president of the United States? I wonder if Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will chime in and call him “dumb and disrespectful?” I wonder if Jay-Z will be as vocal about Officer Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck as he was about professional football players needing to move on from the act of taking a knee during the national anthem?

What we have here is the tale of two knees. Kaepernick used his to make Black Lives Matter. Officer Chauvin used his to make Black lives nonexistent. The latter has caused a national uproar. As a result, I am now seeing politicians and police officers taking a knee. It is debatable as to who and what they’re actually taking a knee for? But what’s not debatable is that, had these people been supportive of Colin Kaepernick and the change that he was trying to bring about, the George Floyds of the world would still be alive. 

Send our brother some love and light: Tim Young, F-23374, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin CA 94974 and visit his website at Timothyjamesyoung.com.