Editor’s Note: On Wednesday September 27, in solidarity with athletes and activists nationwide protesting police brutality, Emma Morgan-Bennett ‘20 and Lelosa Aimufua ‘20 kneeled during the national anthem before the faculty appreciation volleyball game. This statement was sent to members of the Swarthmore African-American Student Society (SASS), the volleyball team and staff, the Swarthmore Athletics Department, the opposing team for Wednesday’s match, President Valerie Smith, and the Centennial Conference Coaches on Monday in anticipation of the game to encourage more students to join their effort, and to make their actions known. President Smith was also invited to attend the match. The statement is reproduced exactly below, and we thank the athletes for letting us publish this statement.
This past week, President Trump released several tweets chastising athletes who have not stood during the national anthem as well as those who have declined White House invitations. His blanket critique speaks to a reckless pattern of racist sentiment that now endangers the very diversity that America is built upon. Our country’s history suffers from the remnants of massacred Native Americans, enslaved Africans, discriminated against Latinx Americans, persecuted Muslims, economically marginalized Whites, and others disenfranchised by American society. Our own grandparents— some of whom are proud American military veterans— recollect stories of lynchings, church bombings, and police brutality. As young women, we fear a future in which our children will not come home for dinner because they have been assailed or shot in the streets simply for being black or brown.
We are patriotic Americans who value our freedoms to speak against injustices. President Trump struggles to recognize that to be patriotic might at times also require dissent. Our Founding Fathers acknowledged that as much as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did. Patriotism and dissent are not mutually exclusive; America’s greatness is manifest in love and equality for all, not hate and privilege. Thus, in solidarity with athletes and activists around the country who have taken a knee in hopes of addressing a long-standing and systematic pattern of racial violence aimed at brown and black people, we feel compelled to join this action. As black athletes, we especially understand the hateful perception of our bodies as valuable on the court, but disposable on the streets.
We invite all athletes and spectators to express solidarity with a movement that believes America can do better.
Trust in our love and faith in our country. Trust when we question an America that does not afford all its citizens security and safety. Only when we address the disease of white supremacy and racial injustice, can we truly become, as our anthem states, the land of the free. Today we kneel because this sense of security remains unattainable for the average young brown and black person walking or driving in their neighborhoods; today we kneel to honor the brown and black lives lost to violence, and to remind ourselves that none of us can truly be free until we all are.
Emma Morgan-Bennett ‘20 and Lelosa Aimufua ‘20
Correction: An earlier version of the Editor’s Note erroneously stated that President Valerie Smith was present at the volleyball game. President Smith was at an alumni event in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday evening.
Featured image courtesy of Lelosa Aimufa ’20.
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