Monday, September 12, 2016

Miami players join Kaepernick in a real show of unity. White players must support their teamates.

Miami players support Kaepernick. Can any of us honestly deny that their cause is a just one?
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Let’s be honest here. We do not live in a free society.  There are many forms of oppression, especially speech and definitely if that speech might lead to action.

There is a lot of talk about freedom here in the US and how we are the greatest country in the world and people have bumper stickers on their cars to show that US society is divinely inspired, “God Bless America” they say. Where in the bible god, the Jewish god or the Christian one was said to have proclaimed America a special place I am not sure.

This confidence in America being the freest place on the planet gets a lesson in reality in the workplace, especially the private sector workplace as free speech and the First Amendment do not apply there.  Surely, many a shop steward has had the hardest time taking a petition around trying to get co-workers to sign in support of another worker or a workplace issue and people tremble at the thought of putting their name on such a document.

Without a union you’ll be lucky to get any signatures. This is due to coercion, to the fear of being denied something for speaking one’s mind or acting in solidarity with others. Sign that sheet and you just might not get that truck driver’s job opening up. You might not get a promotion in to management etc. It is a form of violence as it messes with your ability to feed yourself and your family.

I often had difficulty accepting as valid the views of some of my more conservative co-workers, the Hannity or libertarian types who aped US state department news releases when it came to their views about foreign policy and the US government’s role in the world. I thought it somewhat hypocritical as we had what one might call a “socialist” job. Working for a public utility and being unionized meant better benefits and a more humane workplace. I often said it was more like a German job, they could not fire us as easily as a private sector employer.

This is why a strong union presence on the job is so important. There are only two sources of power in the workplace, the bosses and the organized workers. If we are not organized, if we are not tight, where white workers stand up for blacks, men for women, the majority for the minority, we have chinks in our armor and the bosses will take advantage of it. This is simply the nature of a social system and a labor process those who do the work do not control.

In my work unit, the union was strong and ever present. It was pretty strong before I got there and with myself and other union activists it got stronger after.  I worked in a blue-collar male environment. As more women came in, the one’s and twos, we did our best to integrate them in to the group. I’m sure when the bosses’ interview an aspiring applicant, they never asked them if they are pro-union as that was a requirement for the job. When myself and the other rep introduced ourselves to new hires we always stressed that we were a pretty tight group. We would stress that we felt that racism and sexism started at the top, was a means of dividing us and we tried to deal with these issues ourselves in order for us all to learn and become stronger. We would urge the sister to bring it to the union first if she had an issue.

We would also let it be know that there were other stewards, female ones in other departments and if a particular woman felt she wasn’t being fairly represented or felt more comfortable talking to a woman we would encourage that. The point was to use the union first. But we stressed that if the union didn’t deal with her issue and she was being sexually harassed or discriminated against, she should go to the boss as they have the power in the workplace, they own it. The argument we would make to our male co-workers would always stress that if a woman or any worker didn’t feel like they were part of the group, that we had their backs, they would go to the only other power there and that was in the bosses’ office. Working class unity is always power, that is why racism, sexism, and other social prejudices are so damaging and why the bosses use all sorts of ways to stir that pot.

In my normal round about way I have arrived at what started me thinking about this.  I was reading an article on Yahoo News of all places and it is an article attacking Kaepernick’s protests against police violence. It’s from CNS News. This is a right wing climate denying news outlet that is not a news outlet at all. It’s owner once described Obama as a “skinny ghetto crackhead”.  It is anti-union, anti-worker and some papers have dropped it as a news source, not Yahoo as yet.

What we are witnessing here with the response to Kaepernick’s protest of police violence and the treatment of black Americans in this society is exactly what I am talking about above, coercion and class struggle.

These responses from teams like the Seattle Seahawks that I wrote about earlier are clearly management driven. I don’t care what a player or any team members says about them voting to link arms and all that, behind these orchestrated protests and there are more of them popping up, are the billionaire sports team and media capitalists and all the parasitic traders, hedge fund managers and speculators whose activities are truly destroying a way of life. It is their handywork.

If you take all these sports figures, they get a lot of money for playing a game. They earn more in a season than most workers might earn in a lifetime.  The tennis players are walking billboards, pimps for the corporation whose clothes they sell and whose sodas or energy drinks they sup as they change ends. The reason they are generally shallow uninteresting characters when we hear them interviewed is that their comfortable lifestyles, millionaire status for many of them, is dependent on them keeping their mouths shut. Don’t say anything controversial. Never say anything about the system and when you talk about poverty or any unpleasantness in society, make sure it appears they’re doing something about it and that the condition is more the product of an individual’s bad choices than a crisis of a social system.

The owners of the sports franchises and the media who make billions off of a football player’s broken body or damaged brain, can and will take away all the privileges if a player doesn’t do what they’re, told, keep their mouths shut and sell some sneakers on TV. This is the same coercion, the same oppression that workers face on the job. These guys just live a more financially comfortable lifestyle, but their work is highly competitive too.  It is not a healthy lifestyle.

The issue that Kaepernick is bringing to the fore opens up a nasty can of worms as it could lead to a discussion about racism, brutality, the complete exclusion of an entire community from society and three hundred or more years of them being paid no wages for their labor. It can lead to the role of the police and what that role really is.

And it won’t stop there either. It will inevitably lead to discussions about society in general, white workers and all workers will begin to question more. White workers have seen their living standards savaged as well.  Workers will, as we always do when we begin to move in to struggle, seek to unite along class lines. This is what the 1% fears and why they are mobilizing counter activities that are using patriotism, nationalism and the glorifying of wars and violence to undermine the genuine protests begun by Kaepernick.

This entire issue is not about Kaepernick, it’s about where his actions might lead. The ruling class fears us; they fear working class unity.

Despite their efforts to undermine Kaepernick and the issue he is directing his activities at, not all the players are falling in to line. Denver Broncos defensive back Brandon Marshall knelt.  Yesterday (Sunday), Miami running back Arian Foster, safety Michael Thomas, wide receiver Kenny Stills, and linebacker Jelani Jenkins all took a lead from Kaepernick. Some have raised clenched fists in the air as the history of 1968 resurfaces. Even college and high school players have joined in. Last Saturday, almost every member of a Philly high school team took a knee. And it should be made known that Peter Norman who supported Carlos and Smith in 1968 was persecuted for his show of racial unity, the Australian government helped to destroy his life.

I want to say one last thing and here I am talking to white/European Americans. I do not for one minute believe that there is at yet so little support coming from the white football players is because they are all racists, although the consciousness of whites is negatively affected by centuries of racist propaganda, like the black ones, they can lose everything too. And it’s not just the money it’s the massive social pressure and potential isolation as a result of the propaganda. As I commented earlier, what do the billionaires careabout the young men and women in the military? They don’t.  Every ruling class uses nationalism, religion and patriotism to manipulate people, get us to think we are all on the same side or to fear foreigners. So their protests are about unity with them, the owners of the tam and their class.  We want unity with all workers and the oppressed of all countries. I am not looking for Warren Buffet or Paul Allen’s or Bill Clinton’s approval, they are not my Americans.

One white friend tells me Kaepernick should be protesting about white poverty and other issues. Well, of course he should; so should we all,  but we often first move to the issue that is most acute for us, that affects us so directly. The legacy of institutionalized racism and centuries of social exclusion is so acute there is not a black family, no matter what class background that doesn't have one relative somewhere who has experienced the racist justice system and police violence, or fallen prey to drug abuse. Stand up and support kaepernick and we will see that his horizon will be broadened too. He will see that his white co-workers and white Americans everywhere understand the righteousness of his complaint. Do you think it didn’t take courage for him to do this? Or for those other black guys that have joined him on other teams violating the phony protests and unity organized by the owners? It took a lot of courage. If they have the courage for this they have the courage to fight for all workers and the issues we all face.

The more of us that support them and aren’t fooled by the nationalistic appeals of the owners the more political it will become. The more it will transcend just the issue of police violence and racism to other concerns, housing, education etc. Believe, me, this is what the capitalist class in this country is afraid of.  The players have a union, if it was worth anything it should be organizing these protests. As usual the labor hierarchy is absent. Their collective cowardice in not standing up, speaking out and mobilizing their ranks against police violence and institutionalized racism is criminal and hurts all workers. But they won't even defend their own members, they have the same world outlook as the 1%.

I was never a big Kaepernick fan because I’m actually quite hostile to the Forty Niners being a Raiders supporter. But sports is big business, the only thing the owners care about is money. Get the taxpayer to build the stadium, guarantee the tickets and sell some air time and jerseys.  They’ve taken the community out of sports.

I am proud of Kaepernick, I am proud of his courage, supportive of his cause and glad he decided he wouldn’t keep his mouth shut any more.

I’m a Kaepernick fan now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic article here, Richard Mellor. I couldn't agree more with your stance. We must find solidarity in order to maintain ahh kind of power in this capitalistic oppression we're facing. And you very your ass that the 1% is using the divide and conquer tactic