Taking a Knee for a Deaf Man

I took a symbolic knee for Magdiel Sanchez, who was carrying a pipe when he was killed on September 19, by Oklahoma City police officers, for purportedly disobeying their orders. They were unaware that he was deaf.

A few months ago, I took a knee for a 73-year-old Francisco Serna, with crucifix in hand, who was killed by Bakersfield, California, police.

The month before, I took a knee for Adalid Flores, who was killed by an Anaheim, California, police officer. He had been holding a cell phone.

I’ve been taking a knee for someone most of my life, and things seems to be getting worse, not better, despite the prevalence of videotaped evidence and access to non-lethal weapons such as Tasers. No one enjoys taking a knee, because the killings and the beatings don’t stop.

When I was 16, journalist Ruben Salazar, was killed by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy on August 29, 1970, in East LA, down the street from where I grew up, and it was this killing that inspired me to go to college and become a writer. So today, I take a knee in his memory.

I have the greatest respect for Colin Kaepernick for what he has done, and now for his colleagues that are following in his footsteps.

What can be said about a president who disrespects and then threatens mostly Black football players with their livelihoods, without addressing the issue of why Kaepernick has taken a knee? All this while seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, including the devastation that has visited Puerto Rico?

The president’s answer seems to be: “Respect the flag and the national anthem because those symbols are more important than the lives of people of color being lost daily.”

At the end of my first year in college, I still remember the news of Santos Rodriguez, 12, who was shot in the head in July 1973, by a Dallas police officer. Today, I also take a knee in his memory.

Another death from that era that stands out was the February 28, 1977, kidnapping, torture and execution of 18-year-old David Dominguez by another LA sheriff’s deputy in the San Gabriel Valley. I covered that trial. I take a knee today in his memory.

Some deaths you just don’t forget. As I was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car after my skull had been fractured by four LA Sheriff’s deputies, and while bleeding profusely on the way to the LA County Jail-Hospital, I remembered Dominguez’s execution. That night in March of 1979, I took a knee for myself.

In all these years, I have met countless family members that have lost loved ones, primarily from communities of color. All are tired of taking knees. In most cases, their communities or their bodies were targeted. That’s the definition of driving, walking or breathing while Red, Black or Brown.

Psychologically, people can heal from trauma. However, unless one gets a lobotomy, there is no true healing, because how do families or survivors or communities heal when one is continually exposed or subjected to extreme violence, year after year after year?

I remember taking a knee for Rodney King in 1991. After his beating, King never recovered. He drowned in 2012; the official cause of death was drugs, alcohol and a heart condition. I say his cause of death was being Black.

I remember taking a knee for Alicia Sotero in 1996, a woman whose merciless beating by Riverside Sheriff’s deputies in Southern California was aired live by a helicopter television crew.

The beatings and killings never stop, and yet only a few receive national coverage. The issue stopped being part of the national conversation for many years, until the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, followed two years later by the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Since that date, many of us have taken a knee for Eric “I can’t breathe” Garner, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland and others.

Many of us have taken a knee for Luis Rodriguez, in an egregious case almost identical to Eric Garner’s. A lawsuit by Luis’s wife was dismissed this spring, without her consent. Knees have also been taken for 13-year-old Andy Lopez, who was killed while carrying a toy rifle, and Valeria Tachiquin, killed by a plainclothes border patrol agent.

Never to be forgotten are the Native casualties, such as Sarah Circle Bear, Paul Castaway, Daniel Covarrubias, the great grandson of Chief Seattle. And the list for these communities is endless. Near where I grew up, seven Chicanos have been killed by LAPD officers in the Hollenbeck Division, just in the past 18 months alone.

Someone might think that I, or anyone, might get tired of writing about this, or of taking knees, because no one should have to be constantly reminding government and the mainstream media of all those they have silenced and made invisible. And I am tired, though the actual reason is because we are in the midst of a pandemic; some 3,500 people have been killed by law enforcement, many caught on camera, just since Michael Brown’s death and without justice anywhere in sight.

As a result this impunity, the next knee we need to take is before the International Criminal Courts of both the United Nations and the Organization of American States. That’s what these courts were designed for: to counteract this nation’s non-functional criminal legal system.