Take a Knee or Lift a Rifle. What’s More Respectful of American Heritage?

A history lesson for the end of Black History Month.


Luke Visconti is the founder and CEO of DiversityInc. Although the title of his column is meant to be humorous, the issues he addresses and the answers he gives to questions are serious — and based on his 18 years of experience publishing DiversityInc. Click here to send your own question to Luke.

Last week we had a popular story about a stupid diversity trick done at a Hyatt* event that involved Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

A Hyatt diversity “expert” poured chocolate syrup into a glass of milk and as a demonstration that diversity is at the bottom, stirred the milk and chocolate together and said it’s much more delicious mixed together. The governor “played along” by drinking the chocolate milk.  He (and Hyatt) were playing at respecting Black History Month.

It is a stupid diversity trick because the chocolate syrup is heavier than milk, which is why it’s at the bottom of the glass. Black people are at the bottom of most organizations due to racism. Women are not fairly represented because of sexism. It has nothing to do with gravity. Racism and sexism are purposeful human failures.

More insulting than the childish milk demonstration, the guest of honor was inappropriate for Black History Month — Gov. Rauner has been very critical of NFL players taking a knee. He said the players are “disrespecting the foundations of our country.”

He’s either a racist or profoundly ignorant (or both).

The foundations of our country are white men killing soldiers for the rights of white men, including the right to enslave Black people. In 1775, in Lexington, Mass., white men picked up rifles and shot to death soldiers of their country (we were a British colony) in protest.

The soldiers were marching to seize armories that had elected rebel colonels. At the time, a “well-regulated militia” included all men under 55 — weapons of war, gunpowder and bullets were stored in local armories, not at home. The reason for the armories was attacks by Indians who wanted their land back.

The Battle of Lexington was the start of the American Revolution. It was so important at the time that the Second Amendment to our Constitution is, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (Well-regulated, as in troubled children should not be able to buy assault rifles and nobody should have high capacity magazines.)

Black NFL players took a knee to protest injustice in law enforcement and our criminal justice system, which is (and always has been) predatory on Black Americans by any measurement.

The movement was started by Colin Kaepernick after he viewed this video of Patrick Harmon being shot three times in the back after being harassed for not having a tail light on his bicycle. Please take a moment and watch the last 31 seconds of Patrick’s life. Think about the last words on Earth that he heard: “I’m going to fucking shoot you.” The video inspired Kaepernick to take a knee. If you read up on him, he is a very thoughtful man; his philanthropy since the obvious collusion of NFL owners ended his career is inspiring.

So, who is more “respectful of American heritage” — the Black players risking their careers to bring awareness of the racial injustice in our legal system, or Gov. Rauner drinking a glass of stupid chocolate milk? And how frightfully ignorant and/or racist are most white Americans, including Gov. Rauner, for thinking that this nonviolent protest is somehow disrespectful?

What could possibly be more in keeping with the best ideals embodied in our Constitution than bringing attention to something so un-American, so disgraceful as our racist criminal justice system.

Having a man like Rauner at a Black History Month event is just clueless. Performing chocolate milk stunts in 2018 is foolishness. People in authority going along with stunts is insulting. I’ll bet Patrick Harmon would agree.

Finally, the senior executives at Hyatt have proven that chocolate milk diversity stunts don’t work; here’s their executive team: 73 percent white men. No women, Blacks or Latinos in P&L positions, women segregated to the traditional roles of corporations that have failed at diversity, the lawyer, marketing  and HR positions (the one Black person out of 11 people pictured). I can imagine the CEO paternalistically saying, “Here are our gals.” How 1973 of them. Have some chocolate milk little lady.

So, another Black History Month ends, and we’ve made insufficient progress.

*Hyatt does not participate in the DiversityInc Top 50 competition.

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  • Luke, A very thoughtful and well written article. Although I did not watch the video, I just can’t… It should be shown and used in mandatory training of every single person working for any US state and US government. We keep seeing the same disturbing racism and hatred becoming the norm, and nothing is being done about it. I appreciate your work on DI and admire your efforts, as well as Mr. Kaepernick’s. Any way either of you would be willing to run for President?

  • anabel gillham

    when in American history was kneeling in cowardice as slave part of American history we only exist because men of all races fought a central government control long everything , even religion. Free men & women fight, they do not grovel & whimper.

  • Bruce Brager

    “And how frightfully ignorant and/or racist are most white Americans . . . for thinking that this nonviolent protest issomehow disrespectful?” Many white Americans, myself included, respect the basic right of freedom of expression, codified in the first, not the second amendment. The right to thoughtlessly stereotype white people is also part of freedom of expression.

    • It’s NOT a stereotype “Among whites, 59% say the players are doing the wrong thing while 82% of blacks say it’s the right thing to do. Almost 9 in 10 Republicans say it’s the wrong thing (87%) while just about three-quarters of Democrats say the opposite (72%). And most younger Americans call it the right thing (56% among those under age 45) while a majority of older Americans say it’s wrong (59% among those age 45 or older).”


      I get that it’s really uncomfortable for a white person to accept that fact. But it’s a fact. Trump is president and he’s a racist, and he still has 35% support, that’s a fact too.

      And you absolutely have the right of expression, as Papa John’s CEO found out, you do not have the right of freedom of repercussions of that expression. You also have freedom to be an ignoramus. Most white people do not know who Patrick Harmon was and do not understand what it means to take a knee.

      • Bruce Brager

        Taking a knee seems better described as a method of expression, a tactic. Also, my response does not give my own views on taking a knee instead of standing for the national anthem.

        • Quietly and solemnly taking a knee is a respecful protest. The subject (racist injustice) is life-and-death important. The movement is far more in keeping with the spirit of 1776 than arming school teachers, allowing the Russians to violate our election process or having your son-in-law trade access for business loans.

  • Luke,
    Once again you’ve provided an extremely insightful article for which I thank you. I would also add that the stupid chocolate milk trick is also indicative of what a majority population typically expects from minorities, and that is to “blend in and be more like us”. (IE: If you’re more like us (majority), you may rise higher or closer to the top.)

  • This was a good article! I still disagree about the analogy being on productive but that is my opinion. While the chocolate syrup is heavier than milk when stirred into the mix the final result is a beautiful mixture! However, I think in this article you touch on some very good points and they should be addressed by folks in power and those who don’t care should not be supported. But that also puts some responsibility on us as voters, to get out and vote these folks out of office or live with what we get as a result! While I am tired of these folks saying what they say! I am equally tired of us saying what we say then having all types of reasons why we don’t get involved and do something consistently on our end. The easiest thing to do is vote and in our communities 20% turnout wont get it. Just a though! I’m sure you have addressed this and many other subjects like this in the past and you will in the future!

  • I think this is a great article and the freedom to take a knee as Colin Kaepernick did to in non-violent protest is one of, if not, the most important one we have.

  • David A Hutchinson

    The author of this article obviously does not respect American heritage. Slavery, for better or worse is part of our heritage. Black people should be proud of their past as part of the American story. Our Founders shouldn’t be criticized by people today because they weren’t around then. Our constitution has led more people to prosperity than any other government in history. And finally these NFL players need to get off their knees and DO SOMETHING to help communities instead of whining all the time. Thank you.

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