The Emotional Labor of “Taking a Knee”

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emotional labor, anti-Blackness, allochronic chrono-politics, raciological discourse, critical race (digital) media analysis, post-truth

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


We center three publicly accessible images: (1) Am I not a Man and a Brother? (1787), (2) Colin Kaepernick (2017) “Taking a Knee”, (3) Mother McDowell of the Black Student in Florida Admonished for “Taking a Knee” in school (2017). The photograph of mother McDowell is included, rather than her son, who she wanted to remain anonymous across media outlets. We draw primarily from publicly accessible media and scholarship available via the Internet (museums, newscasts, scholarly repositories) to provide a composite of kneeling discourse and counter-narratives related to race (i.e., anti-slavery, abolition, anti-racism protests) and proper behavior. Each image is situated within literature supporting analysis through concepts (time, race) visual, and textual information. Rather than detailing the images, we focus on the surrounding narratives, contemporary readings, redactions, and annotations (we create or relate to) to consider emotions as part of the context, impetus, and force behind the actions captured in them. We juxtapose, redact, and critique images and texts associated with kneeling/taking a knee by men and boys racialized as Black, but not exclusively., as the practices we illustrate in response to structural racism (i.e., discipline in schools) also bring attention to events involving other students: a Black girl and an Indigenous (Inuit) boy.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

The International Journal of Critical Media Literacy, v. 1, issue 1, p. 102-117