- UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab appeared not to know where taking a knee comes from, saying in a Thursday interview it “seems to be taken from the Game of Thrones.”
- Raab said he did “understand” the motivations of the Black Lives Matter movement, but said the gesture struck him as “a symbol of subjugation and subordination.”
- His comments have since prompted widespread criticism, including from Labour MP David Lammy, who called it “deeply embarrassing.”
- Raab has since tweeted that he has “full respect” for the Black Lives Matter movement.
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UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday that the act of taking a knee “seems to be taken from the Game of Thrones” in an apparent misunderstanding of the gesture’s origin.
In a Thursday interview with TalkRadio, Raab was asked if he would take a knee at sporting fixtures — as football players from Manchester City, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Sheffield United did before their first Premier League matches on Wednesday night.
He responded by saying: “I understand this sense of frustration and restlessness which is driving the Black Lives Matters [sic] movement.”
“I’ve got to say on this taking the knee thing, I don’t know, maybe it’s got a broader history, but it seems to be taken from the Game of Thrones,” he continued.
“It feels to me like a symbol of subjugation and subordination rather than one of liberation and emancipation.”
—talkRADIO (@talkRADIO) June 18, 2020
He did not seem aware of the decades-old protest movement seen in many racial-injustice demonstrations.
In 1965, Martin Luther King took a knee alongside civil-rights marchers outside the Dallas Alabama Courthouse.
More recently, in 2016, quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt as part of a peaceful protest against racial injustice and police brutality instead of standing for the US national anthem during sporting events.
It has now been adopted as a popular gesture of solidarity.
Raab on Thursday said that kneeling is a matter of personal choice and said he would only do so for the Queen, and when he proposed to his wife.
As foreign secretary, Raab is second only to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in representing the UK abroad.
Britain has recently seen Black Lives Matter protests in sympathy with the US as well as against domestic racial injustices.
On June 7, Black Lives Matter protesters toppled a statue of former slave trader Edward Colston.
A decision to put a protective cover over a statue of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill — after protesters graffitied it saying he “was a racist” — sparked violent far-right counter-protests on June 13.
Critics have called Raab’s comments tone deaf and insulting to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy, who spearheaded an equality review into the UK criminal justice system in 2017, tweeted: “This is not just insulting to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it is deeply embarrassing for Dominic Raab. He supposed to be the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom.”
Former Labour candidate Faiza Shaheen also called it a racist microaggression.
“I’m seeing a lot of my black colleagues & friends deeply upset and overwhelmed by everything that is happening,” she tweeted. “This sort of comment is yet another micro aggression on top of everything else.”
Following the uproar, Raab tweeted: “To be clear: I have full respect for the Black Lives Matter movement, and the issues driving them. If people wish to take a knee, that’s their choice and I respect it. We all need to come together to tackle any discrimination and social injustice.”
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office declined to comment further.
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