Kneeling to make a stand

At the annual Orange, Black and White Swim Meet on Sept. 24, freshman Cameron Alcorn and senior Ohemaa Barnes knelt during the national anthem in protest of violence against black individuals. Although Alcorn and Barnes do not fully align themselves with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, they support their general causes and advocate for the rights of African-Americans.

“White on black crime is a serious thing,” Alcorn said. “Police killing innocent black people is wrong, and that’s why I choose to kneel–to protest it.”

To many Americans, the flag now symbolizes persecution against African Americans due to recent police violence.

“I choose not to stand for a flag that oppresses black people,” Barnes said.  “I will not back down to the flag. I will not stand and I will not sing the anthem.”

Not only did Barnes kneel in support of the BLM organization itself, but she also knelt to show respect for Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player who pioneered the movement.

“I am supporting Kaepernick because he is one of my favorite football players,” Barnes said. “Kaepernick is taking a stand, and most people in power don’t take a stand. I respect him for that.”

Upon seeing the two students protest, many people became upset. They don’t believe that taking a knee during the anthem is the proper way to address the situation.

“People should be allowed to [kneel], but I don’t think it’s the right way to go about it,” junior Nate Whittington said. “I think that if you’re wanting to make this better for black people, then don’t do something that’s going to make non-blacks angry.”

Not only did it shock the students and parents attending the meet, but it also made swim coach Eric Vogan feel uncomfortable.

“My problem with it is that a swim meet is not a venue to make any kind of a protest. However, I don’t have a problem with them believing in whatever they want to believe in,” Vogan said. “If they don’t want to stand for their national anthem, then they shouldn’t be present.”

Although many disagreed with the display of protest, there are still people that attended the meet who are in support of the students’ actions.

“When I saw Ohemaa and Cameron kneeling during the national anthem, I felt a sense of respect for them,” senior swim captain Dalton Dickson said. “Both of them knew that they would face opposition for doing that, and they certainly have. That shows me that they believe in their cause and their right to protest, which is more important than what they’re protesting and whether or not they’re wrong.”

Despite the judgment Alcorn received from his peers and coaches, he plans to continue quietly protesting during the anthem in order to bring attention to the BLM cause.

“Choosing to kneel is my right, and I believe in what I was standing for,” Alcorn said. “I plan on continuing to kneel–it’s my right to do so.”

Although Barnes continues to be a strong advocate for the rights of African-Americans, she plans to take other courses of action other than kneeling.

“If there is a point where there is no bathroom that I can go to, I will go to the nearest exit and make sure I’m not inside [during the anthem],” Barnes said. “I’m not going to kneel anymore because that will cause drama, but I don’t want people to think that I’m backing down because I’m scared.”