“I didn’t know”

Taking a knee and "I didn't know"
Today we learned that the UK Foreign Secretary “didn’t know” what “taking a knee” meant

When I was in my last year of high school, some friends and I were chatting after a Physics class where we had been learning about anti-matter. We then came up with the idea of a third type of matter, “doesn’t matter”, which I wrote about in: “Matter, Antimatter, Doesn’t Matter“.

Now, in that 2017 blog I used the idea as a way to focus on eliminating from your life and work the things that are “doesn’t matter“.

Today, though, let me link that to a phrase I’ve been hearing over and over again from white people in recent weeks, and that is: “I didn’t know“.

It is truly uplifting to see so many people truly shaken to their core as they really look deeply into themselves about racism and committing to being anti-racist, for many it has rocked their world view. At the same time, this is often accompanied by “I didn’t know”, that they didn’t know about some of the systemic issues they are now learning about.

For my fellow white people, please also read: “The emotional impact of watching white people wake up to racism in real-time” by Natalie Morris, who has, yes, been writing and talking about this for a long time. One person quoted in her article notes:

‘I just don’t accept the “we didn’t know how bad it was” rhetoric. Black people have been calling out racism for generations. We said it calmly, we protested, we put it in our music, our art, our movies, our television, our stages. And they watched, danced, laughed and clapped. But they never heard. ‘Or perhaps they did hear, but just didn’t care until it was at their front door.’

So, please bring awareness to yourself why you are finding yourself saying “I didn’t know”. Is it because you weren’t taught about this history in school, or was it, at least to some degree, because it was “doesn’t matter” to you up until this point.

Please do bring awareness to why you are saying it if you find yourself saying “I didn’t know” to someone on the receiving end of bias. Look both to why you didn’t know, and then to why you are saying it to them.

You may think you are being helpful, whereas, as in Natalie’s article, really at this particular point in time you are perhaps asking for forgiveness in a way that can cause a negative impact on the recipient.

Now, as I write this today, I see a key member of the UK cabinet who “didn’t know” what taking a knee meant, somehow referring to Game of Thrones rather than taking the tiniest moment to care enough to learn about Colin Kaepernick!

He must have known this would have been a question when interviewed right after players and officials all took a knee as Premiership football restarted this week. If he truly didn’t know, it truly was “doesn’t matter” to him, thirty seconds googling on his phone would have told him all he needed to know to answer this, yet he didn’t. It doesn’t matter to him to understand the pain black people feel in the USA around police brutality, not how this has lead to such strong allyship around the world.

John Amaechi captures this well this morning:

Also published on Medium.