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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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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