Kneeling vs Crouching – Which Gesture Can Best Heal The Racial Divide?

Dear Readers,

In response to my previous post, in which I called on people to get up off their knees:  My reader/commenter Benjamin (who always keeps me honest) pointed out that this particular anti-racism gesture probably originated with a football player named Colin Kaepernick.  Kaepernick has a huge afro and has been politically active for some time.  I had not heard of him prior to this, because I don’t follow football.  But apparently, back in the day, Colin staged a rather remarkable protest against racism and police brutality, by crouching down on one knee while the American national anthem was being played.

This totally makes sense, in that context, as an act of protest.  When the anthem is played, Americans are expected to stand, put their hands over their hearts, babble along with the words if they can, and shed a tear or two of pure patriotic pride while pasting a look of pure exaltation on their dumb faces.  Hence, Colin did the opposite of this, namely crouch lower instead of taller.  The equivalent in, say, a stadium or auditorium, might be to remain seated instead of standing up; this would also be an effective act of protest.  Given that they were outside and already standing, then Colin and his friends chose to crouch lower.  You want me to kneel?  I’ll stand up tall!  You want me to stand?  Then I go low.  It all makes total sense, to do the opposite of what “The Man” demands of you!

As a trained Linguist (and remember that Scientific Linguistics is a branch of Semiotics) I should have understood that a particular symbol or gesture can mean different things in different contexts; or even in different cultures.  Which brings me to the Ukrainian issue.

Ukrainian Berkut riot police were forced to kneel before triumphant Maidan Nazis.

Like many Russians, I have a knee-jerk (haha – get the pun?) reaction to seeing people getting down on their knees; because it reminds me of Ukrainians.  Kneeling is a big part of traditional Ukrainian culture:  Ukrainian peasants were forced to kneel to their Polish overlords (called “Pans”).  It’s all part of the slavish culture.  In modern times we have seen Ukrainians kneel before American army instructors and pay obeisance to the American flag.  During the Maidan riots, captured Berkut riot police were forced to kneel and fake penance to their captors.

The Ukrainian kneeling technique usually involves being right down there on both knees.  Which can be very hard on the joints, if one is not wearing pads!  More sensible people use the “opera aria” knee-bend, which involves going down on one knee, with the other one cocked, so it’s easier to push yourself up again from the stage.

Your traditional kneeling Othello…

Is there a semiotic difference between the double-knee bend and the cocked-knee crouch?  Why, I reckon there must be!  The former is just plain groveling, but the latter can include the connotation of “ready for action if needed”.

Next, I have this piece from VZGLIAD by a Russian reporter named Elizaveta Bulkina.  The piece is astoundingly obnoxious and yet, sadly, reflects the majority Russian public opinion on what is happening in the U.S.  American readers might be surprised to know that (1) Most Russians could care less, and the events are not covered all that extensively in the Russian press; and that (2) online surveys show that a majority of Russian readers (about 60/40) support the American police and not the protesters.  This may have something to do with the Ukrainian Maidan events, which saw the forces of law and order humiliated by rampaging violent mobs; and those events are still fresh in Russian minds.  Plus, the fact that most Russians are simply “law and order” types by nature.  Oh, they get that America is a brutal police state.  But they also figure that a brutal police state is better than “mere anarchy” loosed upon the world, to coin a phrase.

Why Can’t Colored People Just Assimilate?

Bulkina interviews retired Major-General of the FSB (sort of Russian FBI) Alexander Mikhailov.  Who is not at all thrilled about the American riots and has no sympathy whatsoever even for the protesters, let alone the rioters.  Mikhailov, a cop to the marrow of his bones, is horrified to see the American police treated like Ukrainian Berkut, forced down on their knees begging forgiveness, as if they have done something terribly wrong.  He believes that this will demoralize the forces of law and order.  Now, what would really demoralize them, is to have their collective asses kicked by the urban mobs!

Although I personally believe that American cops could use a dose of humility from time to time, I also believe that the individual cops are not really the problem.  It’s the system, stupid.  It’s those damned police-state laws which give cops the right to shoot and kill if they even suspect their little pinky is at risk.  Repeal those laws, and half the problem goes away!

Another great idea, which I heard some black pastor propose on youtube, is this one:  Force the police departments to purchase the “malpractice” insurance to cover civil claims; instead of  having the cities pay those out.  That should really incentivize the police forces to get rid of bad apples who cost them a ton of money.

Major-General Mikhailov

Anyhow, where the Major-General really gets my goat is with this quote, concerning some incidents in the American riots:  “Officers themselves will never [voluntarily] get down on their knees.  Which means that their higher-ups ordered them to kneel.  One sees a simple picture playing out here:  Having lowered the dignity level of the police troops in the eyes of the rioters, they think to lower the emotional level and, in this manner, buy some time.  You know there is the saying — to save the whole, one must give up a small portion.

“But this does not solve the problem.  It’s just a tactical move that will have no effect.  The mass of marginals will not stop with this.  These are the representatives of the colored population, who don’t want to work, they don’t want to adapt to the USA, they only want to receive benefits from the American government, giving nothing in return.”

This post was brought to you by Acme Knee Pads! [just kidding]

Ouch!  I don’t even know where to begin…  Possibly the Major-General is confusing African-Americans with immigrant Muslims?  Don’t want to adapt… LOL.  Aside from the fact that African-Americans were among the first on these shores (not counting the Indians)… and that also goes for the Hispanic population.

I don’t know if Major-General Mikhailov has ever been to the U.S., but that bit about “colored not wanting to work” is completely unfair.  Anybody who travels throughout the U.S. can see with their own eyes that, wherever they go, it’s the black and brown people doing the lion’s share of all the real work that goes on.

Be it road crews, working in shops, cleaning and maintenance, every form of construction, every possible profession, wherever useful work is happening, you will see black and brown crews earning their place in the human hive.  The people who don’t want to work – well, you’ll find those guys on Wall Street, methinks.

In conclusion:  That minority of “colored” people who are marginals and criminals, are not at all representative.  I personally know tons of African-Americans, I have black neighbors, friends, work colleagues, etc.  And with just one exception (this guy I worked with at my last job, he was a real asshole), I found them all to be pretty nice people, gentle and humorous on the whole.  And tremendously devoted to their families.  Which is another reason why Mikhailov is being really unfair here, in my opinion.  He only sees the rioters and looters.  But once again, the Russian experience is completely different, which is why the two cultures just don’t understand each other most of the time.  And so probably shouldn’t opine too much, one about the other.

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17 Responses to Kneeling vs Crouching – Which Gesture Can Best Heal The Racial Divide?

  1. Pavlo Svolochenko says:

    The latest talk of ‘defunding the police’ is the best part – the end result will be that their duties will be taken over by private contractors wherever someone can afford it. Everyone who can’t afford the monthly subscription to Amazon Urban Security Solutions gets to fend for themselves.


    • yalensis says:

      Amazon Urban Security Solutions – sounds great, Pavlo, but is that included in my Prime subscription?
      I hope so, because I want to be able to stream my favorite cop action shows while feeling secure inside my own residence. Without paying an extra premium, don’t tempt me to go out there and start rioting, you amazon racist bastards!


    • Benjamin says:

      Which I suspect is very much part of the plan. Neoliberalism never lets a crisis go to waste.


  2. Benjamin says:

    This Mihkailov guy literally doesnt know what he’s talking about, to the point that it’s kind of pointless to even try refuting him (I will say that he’s basically complaining that people who were intentionally segregated into ghettos won’t assimilate. In fact US blacks are both highly assimilated into the culture, especially pop culture, and materially isolated).

    He knows as much about the internal dynamics of the US as I do about the internal dynamics of Papua New Guinea. Except I’m not giving my opinions about Papua New Guinea, and I’m certainly not an official of an intelligence agency and paid to freaking know stuff. Sounds like Russian intelligence is as clueless as US intelligence.

    On the subject of cops kneeling, it’s pure performance. In most cases they went right back to beating later in the day. Here’s a useful rundown on the subject:


    • yalensis says:

      :45 seconds in: “THAT guy looks sincere…”
      “They beat the living shit out of us one hour after that…”
      “Cops are depraved!”

      LOL, Jimmy is spot on, as usual.

      Yeah, this Mikhailov guy is just a retired high-level Russian cop, now probably thinking to make a ruble or two by offering his un-sought opinions about the American scene to the Russian press. He didn’t like the scenes of cops kneeling because he believed it denigrated the authority of the “forces of law and order”, LOL. Wonder what he thinks about the later scenes of those very same cops beating the shit out of the same people they were kneeling with! Restored their cop-like authority, I reckon.

      And yeah, he’s confusing African-Americans and Hispanics, who are highly integrated into the culture — they ARE the culture, in many parts of the country — with something like Russian Dagestanis arriving in Moscow. He literally doesn’t get it.


  3. Benjamin says:

    I have to correct you on one point: white people still do the majority of the work in the US.

    That’s projected to change in the near future (if the US has a future…), when Hispanics will become the majority. But for the next decade or so it will remain majority white, and they’ll stay a significant portion even after that.


    • yalensis says:

      That’s a fair point. I was being somewhat impressionistic, it’s just my experience, wherever I go in the U.S. I see good people working hard and doing useful work, and there are always some “coloreds” in the mix. Even out West, in states with very few African-Americans; well, there you might see a lot of Native Americans working hard in various occupations… Mikhailov is simply being unfair when he calls all the “colored” marginals and say they don’t want to work, or all are part of the criminal underworld!
      Egads, you are right, why do I bother polemicizing against idiots like him?


  4. Benjamin says:

    The individual cops are genuinely mostly scumbags. This is because the entire system of selecting, training, and disciplining police is utterly broken in the US. It actively weeds out people who are ‘too smart’ (they will literally decline your application if your IQ is ‘too high’) or who have a conscience. Anyone who isn’t an idiot or an asshole that manages to slip through usually quits in disgust within a year or two. (There was an ex-cop several years ago who made rounds on left independent media doing interviews who was critical of the entire policing infrastructure. I’ll dig up some of them and post them later).

    In fact there’s been an insane story in just the last couple days where two Bufallo cops were suspended for walking up to and shoving a 75 year old man to the ground (there’s no ‘alleged’ about this incident either, the whole thing is on clear video). Then fifty-seven (57!) other cops from the same unit resigned in protest over the treatment of the two suspended cops.

    It’s not ‘a few bad apples’. The entire fucking orchard is rotten, with very few exceptions. Now, maybe only a minority of bad cops are doing the actual beatings, but the supposed ‘good’ cops are allowing it to happen. And frequently not just allowing, but ensuring: I have seen at least two videos now, of two seperate incidents, where a few cops going on a beating spree, and then a larger number of cops actively form a cordon around the beating, so it won’t be interrupted.

    US cops think they are ‘warriors’, keeping inferior ‘civilians’ (in reality a cop is themselves a fucking civilian) in line. They’re all trained in brutalizing by Israelis and they armed to the teeth; they all look like SS stormtrooper wannabes. US police were never great (they were founded on slave patrols and strike breaking), but they’ve gotten massively worse in the last twenty years as the military equipment and training flooded in after 9/11.

    Whatever else these protests are doing, they’re shattering a lot of peoples illusions about ‘Officer Friendly’ being on their side. Everything is on HD video now.


    • yalensis says:

      Yeah, that “forming a cordon” thing is one of their favorite tactics. You can even see that in miniature in the George Floyd beating (the pre-beating video) where they lead him across the street and hide him from prying eyes (or so they think) behind the cop car. It’s clear as day that the 3 other cops are forming a “protective cordon” around the 4th cop, Chauvin, so that he can freely snuff the life out of a man without being disturbed.

      Been reading, by the way, in the “white tabloid” press that Floyd turned out to be not so perfect and innocent as a martyr after all. Having a quite long rap sheet, including armed robbery! Supposedly he “turned his life around” 6 years ago and became a law-abiding citizen. Doing the math, that was around the time when his little girl was born; so one might make assumptions that was the life-changing event.

      In any case, even these revelations did not cool the ire of the outraged masses. And why would it? They didn’t need a Jesus-perfect martyr, and it was never about Floyd in the first place, it’s about the system. And people just so sick of the cops and the whole rotten system. A nice clean martyr is just a benny, it’s not a requirement.

      You mentioned about the cops being trained by Israelis: that’s a good point too. I read that somewhere. Did this start under Rudi Giuliani? He always admired the way Israeli cops would kick in doors and beat the shit out of Palestinians.
      As a Palestinian is to an Israeli riot cop, so is an ordinary citizen to an American cop, that’s their training.


  5. Benjamin says:

    It’s very widespread, basically every major city PD has gotten training from them.

    And trying to dig up dirt and smear a police victim happens every single time the police kill someone and it gets attention. And it’s not just tabloids that do it:


    • yalensis says:

      “So and so was no angel…”

      I think the masses are on to these vultures, because people have decided they just don’t care if somebody was an angel or not!
      I was looking at some youtube videos today, it’s astonishing that even in distant Australia, literally something like 100,000 people came out in various cities to protest whatever it is that they are protesting in Australia, and they were all chanting George Floyd’s name.
      Even though he is no angel.

      Even Donald Trump was invoking Floyd. And not in a negative way!
      According to Trump, Floyd is looking down on us from heaven. And his last words were something like: “I can’t breathe… [gurgle]…. But on the positive side, our job numbers are looking not too shabby!”


  6. Benjamin says:

    Found the guy I was thinking of. His name is Michael Wood:

    Incidentally, The Real News Network, which did these interviews, underwent what was effectively a coup over half a year ago against its two main founders, and took a decided Liberal (as opposed to Leftist) turn. Sadly it’s no longer worth following. The two founders have now continued their work with however.


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