Jadesola James: How dare this black man take a knee?

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On Sept. 23, an African-American student at Monument Mountain Regional High School kneeled during the national anthem, exercising his right to protest injustice.

Upon returning to school the following Monday, a white student allegedly talked of "lynching" the player, and another pupil reported that to authorities.

I am also a black student. Originally from a small country in South America called Guyana, I reside in Philadelphia with my mother. Three years ago, I chose to attend Miss Hall's School as a freshman and found my outlook as a global citizen incredibly challenged, going from a different part of a world, then to my big city, then to the very small city of Pittsfield.

Last year, a group of my friends and I were harassed at the Berkshire Mall by Confederate flag-wearing white students who called us racial slurs, and then we were asked to leave by mall security. After this event, our school ceased visits to the mall, and we have yet to receive follow up from the establishment.

A shared experience

Upon speaking to other students I have met in this region, occurrences like this are not uncommon. Students of color in Berkshire County often find themselves at risk of harassment and fearful of their safety.

What happened to me opened up a brand new world. I have walked tall through my entire life without fear and knowing exactly who I am thanks to my strong heritage. However, I see now that depending on where I go, my individuality can be reduced to that of just another black kid.

In writing this column, I see a stark and surprising theme in what happened to me at the Berkshire Mall last year and what happened to my fellow black student at Monument Mountain.

My friends and I were followed and harassed by pro-Confederate white kids who felt that they could express their nationalism through the persecution of black kids who were in the way.

'Twisted motive'

The young man who attends Monument Mountain was attacked and threatened because his choice to take a knee offended his white peers. They weren't offended because of why he did it, but because he was not as dutiful to the flag as they felt they were. This entire incident was spawned out of a twisted nationalistic motive: How dare this black man kneel down as we honor our country?

From my perspective, I am here to express that I do not denounce the United States of America. I am blessed with the opportunities I have thanks to my residence here, as is this young man.

However, I do choose to denounce the marginalization of people of color in these United States, police brutality, systemic racism, and all that contributes to the death and destruction of my race. Expression of these feelings, this constant pain, varies in form.

My expression of my feelings, my burning desire to free myself from insecurity, my need to be black and unafraid, and my love of my culture, is expressed through this: Writing.

If I played football, I would be kneeling, too.

Jadesola James is an intern at Multicultural BRIDGE. A senior at Miss Hall's School, she makes her debut writing commentary that will touch on myriad issues, including race, in the Berkshires.


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