Dr. Bonnie Reddick: ‘Get your knees off our necks’

by Dr. Bonnie Reddick

Activist and lawyer Bryan Stevenson once said, “hopelessness is the enemy of justice.” 

It is so hard to be hopeful when my Black skin is a weapon. 

It is so hard to be hopeful when I see a rogue President, Attorney General, Majority-Republican Senate and police state deploy rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray to pierce, innocent and diverse bodies. 

They sanctioned American citizens being trampled by horses, hit by police vehicles and viciously beaten by batons for peacefully and nonviolently exercising their First Amendment rights. Conversely, they proactively preserve white men with rifles’ Second Amendment right to bear arms on the steps of a state capitol. 

Watching George Floyd’s memorial gave me hope. I witnessed Attorney Benjamin Crump extol us to fight for the poor and disenfranchised — the least of us. He admonished those of us who occupy this ivory tower to be intentional in what we teach and research, but more importantly, our relationship with students and one another. 

Additionally, Reverend Al Sharpton exhorted white folks to get their knees off our necks! Malcolm X once said, “I don’t have a chip on my shoulder, you have your knee on my neck” in castigating white folks who forget, ignore, and omit the terror, brutality, and violence black people have endured in this country since 1619. 

There is no excuse for anyone to be ignorant of black multigenerational trauma, or 21st-century curriculum being devoid of a substantive discussion of the contributions of Black people and the scholarship of Black academics. There is no excuse for the service of Black faculty to be expected, but not rewarded. Your time is up!

Black students, forgive me. In my love and concern for you, I directed you to King’s blueprint; however, I cannot prescribe your freedom. I feared for your safety. I’d watched news coverage of a Black grandmother on the ground with a rubber bullet, shot by a La Mesa police officer, lodged in the middle of her forehead. 

She is still in ICU. 

I watched a young, Black, man harassed and later arrested, presumably for assaulting a La Mesa police officer. They recently released body camera footage. 

As it turns out, his black skin was weaponized. 

I did not want my students to meet the same fate. This movement of diverse bodies, however, will not be deterred. It will not be moved. A change is going to come.

America has to reckon with her sins. A lot of folks must reconcile with electing and supporting a narcissistic, white nationalist who is woefully ignorant and utterly lacking in empathy, morality, and particularly, the truth. He is symptomatic of the sins this country must face. 

In spite of hundreds of years of enslavement, Jim Crow, disenfranchisement, mass incarceration, police brutality, discrimination in housing, education and employment, black people have survived in a system that was designed to kill us. 

Nevertheless, there is hope! There will be justice. Get your knee off our necks!


Dr. Bonnie Reddick, a San Diego State alumna, is the interim director of the Black Resource Center at SDSU, and a part-time lecturer in the department of Africana Studies in the College of Arts & Letters. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email