They are kneeling because they see a hurt in American society they want healed.
In recent weeks, cheerleaders from Davenport’s North High School have taken a knee during the national anthem at several games or events to protest racism and inequality.
Friday, several of the teens talked about what they are trying to say.
“I kneel because this country has allowed my people to face centuries of oppression, and I will not stand for that,” Amine Golden, 17, said.
The lives of countless people of color have been wrongfully taken by police brutality for no other reason than that they were different, Golden said. They have received little or no justice.
Dania Green, 17, said her choice to kneel was inspired by actions taken this summer across the country after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“I was deeply moved by my people’s response to injustice by protesting, and I personally couldn’t be a part of it how I wanted to, so this is my way of protesting,” Green said.
The teens said they have had positive support for their actions -- family, teachers and others -- but they have also been criticized for the act, they said.
Mackenzie Hudson said one of their protests was on Sept. 11 and they were criticized by people who argued they were being disrespectful to the people who were killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks.
“They called us terrorists; they were like using a lot of hurtful words,” Hudson said.
They’ve also been accused of not respecting the military, Hudson said.
She said their protests are not meant that way.
What they are meant to do is highlight that the ideals America’s symbols represent are not always available to all of its citizens, they said.
Green said she did not feel the need to take any pride in a country that takes a huge hand in the detriment of black people and people of color every single day.
“Black life matters,” Green said. “Today, tomorrow and every day after that.”
Too much hatred and too much injustice has been going on for so long, Kenniah Cotton said.
“We shouldn’t be killed or treated differently just because (of ) the color of our skin,” Torrence Hicks, 15, said.
Green and Hudson said they do not expect change to come quickly.
Their protests, however, have started debate, Green said.
“That’s how change starts, through communication,” Green said.
Inequality is not just current events, it is a long-standing issue that will not stop without real change being made, Golden said.That change will only be made by speaking out, by voting, by boycotting, protesting and educating.
Some will demand change peacefully and some will not, but the way they have called for change should not be the focus of attention-- that change needs to be made is what is important, Golden said.
“The change we are asking for should never be up for debate because they are human rights,” Golden said.
Photographer Meg McLaughlin contributed to this report.
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