The de facto-deputy prime minister Dominc Raab thinks ‘taking the knee’ is something from ‘Game of Thrones’ and called the act – performed around the world by Black Lives Matter protestors – a “symbol of subjugation and subordination”.
Raab made the comments in an astonishing interview with talkRadio’s resident ‘provoc-jock’ Julia Hartley-Brewer this morning that revealed again the stupidity and breathtaking ignorance of the UK’s foreign secretary.
‘Taking the knee’ has become a highly symbolic act during global Black Lives Matter protests and its origins and significance has been explained and discussed in myriad reports across all media since it became ‘a thing’ in 2016.
As most of the planet is aware, American football star Colin Kaepernick used his platform to peacefully protest against racism and police brutality by kneeling during the traditional pre-match rendition of the US national anthem. Initially Kaepernick, and other players, protested by sitting rather than standing for the anthem but changed this to ‘take the knee’ in order to better respect military veterans. The peaceful act of protest cost Kaepernick his football career and led to highly vocal criticism from the White House with both Donald Trump and vice-president Mike Pence denouncing Kaepernick and those emulating his protest.
Keir Starmer and other leading UK – and US – politicians have recently ‘taken the knee’, as widely reported, discussed and debated. Just last night, when English Premier League footballers and officials all ‘took the knee’ before kick-off – in the first games for 100 days – the act was again explained and contextualised by soccer pundits and commentators.
Yet this morning, when Raab was asked on the radio if he too would adopt the pose, his answer betrayed a staggering lack of knowledge or even awareness of such a potent, current and culturally significant act.
“Do you know what?” questioned Raab, about to reveal the extent of his own cluelessness about the question, “I understand this sense of frustration, of restlessness, which is driving the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’ve got to 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.
“But I understand people feel differently about it, so it’s a matter of personal choice.”
Had Raab truly understood the “sense of frustration, of restlessness…driving the Black Lives Matter movement” he so causally claimed to, he would perhaps have absorbed some of the debate surrounding ‘taking the knee’, which has, after all, been so frequently reported, discussed and remarked on since 2016 – even more so recently as a hallmark of Black Lives Matter protests.
Even a child with a modicum of curiosity would have asked, why are they kneeling?
But not the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, not the First Secretary of State, the stand-in PM, the right honourable Dominic Raab MP, who instead speculated: “maybe it’s got a broader history but it seems to be taken from the Game of Thrones”.
It is utterly baffling how – never mind why? – anyone could connect this iconic act of anti-racist protest with a fantastical TV series about dragons and an iron throne.
That it is the foreign secretary making those comments is surely a cause of great concern to make people question the competence of the government supposedly leading us.
To compound the insult – and simultaneously reveal the extent of his utter aloofness from what is actually going on in the world around him – Raab underlined his dismissal of the significance of ‘taking the knee’ by describing it as feeling “like a symbol of subjugation and subordination, rather than one of liberation and emancipation”.
For Raab, ‘taking the knee’ could never be an act of respect as part of a peaceful protest against police brutality and racism, the products of a supremacist ideology invented to subjugate and subordinate peoples of every nation. He, it turns out, would only keel for the Queen and his “missus”.
And that it is the stated opinion of the first secretary of state, not only calls into question Raab’s judgement and fitness for office – it calls into question, yet again, the prime minister’s.
After all, Boris Johnson appointed Raab to his multiple cabinet positions after he had already demonstrated some level of his stupidity when, as Brexit secretary (under Theresa May’s premiership) he admitted, during a live Q&A, that he “hadn’t quite understood” the importance of cross-Channel trade to the UK.
The country shuddered then to realise the ineptitude of the man leading negotiations for Britain’s future trade with Europe. Yet he is now foreign secretary, representing the UK to the world, and effective deputy PM as first secretary who stood-in as PM during Johnson’s hospitalisation for Covid-19.
That the prime minister promoted Raab, and continues to stand by him, feels like, to borrow a phrase, that while protestors around the world ‘take the knee’, Boris Johnson’s government continues to take the piss.