Today’s Worst Take on Black Lives Matter Is Uniquely Bad and British

“I’d take the knee for two people: the Queen and the Mrs. when I asked her to marry me.”

Stefan Rousseau/ZUMA

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Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who unexpectedly stepped in for Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he contracted the coronavirus, is in the limelight once again. This time, he’s taking a different page from Johnson’s leadership—one that’s rife with discriminatory and racist statements.

“I’ve got say on this take-the-knee thing, which I don’t know, maybe it’s got a broader history, but it seems to be taken from the Game of Thrones, feels to me like a symbol of subjugation and subordination, rather than one of liberation and emancipation,” Raab said in an interview with Talk Radio Thursday morning. “But I understand people feel differently about it, so it’s a matter of personal choice.”

Raab’s assertion, while confident, is wrong. The act of taking one knee was started by Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, to protest systemic racism in America. The powerful gesture, which sparked years of debate since Kaepernick’s first kneel during the national anthem in 2016, has been widely used throughout the current police brutality protests. (Other athletes had similarly refused to stand during the national anthem over the years.)

Raab’s extraordinarily dismissive tone continued when he was asked if he would ever adopt the pose to demonstrate solidarity with the protests. “I’d take the knee for two people: the Queen and the Mrs. when I asked her to marry me,” he responded, prompting a boisterous laugh from interviewer Julia Hartley-Brewer.

The comments from Raab, a key figure in ongoing Brexit negotiations, attracted praise from the country’s far-right set, with Britain’s official Leave campaign calling them “refreshing” amid the backdrop of global protests against police brutality.

Raab is the latest member of Johnson’s cabinet to stir controversy with a take on the Black Lives Matter protests that exploded in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minneapolis. As the demonstrations have gone global, with thousands marching across the United Kingdom in recent weeks, Johnson has claimed that protesters are engaged in a sense of “victimization,” while denying that Britain is a racist country.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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