Colin Kaepernick is a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) who took the bold stance of refusing to stand against the backward U.S. national anthem before every football game. At the end of the 2016 NFL season, Kaepernick, recovering from three surgeries the previous off season, had a decent statistical year on a terrible team. The Niners, Kaepernick's former employer, advised him they did not intend to pick up the option on the final year of his contract which left him no alternative except to opt out and become a free agent, meaning he could sign with any team willing to offer him a contract. That was in January of 2017. At this point, not one team has offered him a contract.
We can talk about any number of issues that have adversely impacted each of these situations. The workers campaign in Canton, although fought with courage and ferociousness for years now, clearly did not have an unquestioned statistical advantage of people who had been won over to the position of seeing the benefits of having a union before the vote was called for. Knowing this, the results of the vote, from a purely statistical perspective, shouldn't be that surprising to anyone. Kaepernick, who was one of the most promising quarterbacks in the NFL in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, has clearly had difficulty reclaiming his prominence as a play caller since that time. Still, despite significant efforts by opponents in each case to use these reasons (and any other element they can think of) to justify the results in each of these situations, neither of these reasons, or anything else these opponents are proposing, are the core reasons for the results we are currently witnessing.
Of course, the core and fundamental reason for the situations in each scenario is the clear and present existence of white supremacy as the chief appendage of the capitalist system in keeping workers and people divided in this society so that the ruling capitalist class can continue to be dominant. We can state this confidently because based on logic and data, no one can argue honestly and effectively with our position. Canton, Mississippi, is well, in Mississippi. For anyone who knows even the slightest elements of U.S. history in the South, that should be all that needs to be said there. A very large percentage of the workers in that Nissan facility in Canton are African people. Like most workers in the South, their day to day working conditions are in need of improvement in every area; e.g. wages, benefits, and safety conditions. The workers there have stories of abuse and there are even recent examples in that plant of workers being killed on the job because of substandard working conditions. Much of this is permitted to happen primarily because African people work there in large numbers and our people are dehumanized in this backward society. As a result, its only the most dedicated and conscious who really object when we are dehumanized and disrespected. Even if you know nothing about the Nissan facility in question, just a cursory knowledge of Canton itself is instructive. Ironically, I used Canton as the backdrop for a majority of my 2014 novel "The Courage Equation." In my book, I portrayed Canton as a backwards Mississippi town stuck in the 50s. At that time, I had never been to Canton. Once the book came out and I realized that people beyond just folks I knew were reading the book, I started to feel guilty about how ti portrayed the town. I worried that maybe I could have done a disservice to the people of Canton. This troubled me so much that later that year, when my daughter wanted to take a trip to Memphis to research moving there, once we got to Memphis, I asked her if we could drive down to Canton so I could see the town for myself. We did, and once I got there I realized that not only was everything I wrote about accurate, but I actually gave the town more credit than it deserves. Canton is 80% African and 20% European. The Europeans control most of the revenue in the town, practically all of it. And historically, our people have been ruled through the traditional iron fist that has defined Mississippi politics for centuries. The handling of the proposed unionization effort is no different. Although the surface story is that everyone also has a right to vote on whether to have a union or not, the truth is when the vote was evident in Canton, the company, in collusion with business forces throughout the city, engaged in a relentless campaign of intimidation against the workers designed to stop them from voting for a union. Workers were forced to attend repeated one on one meetings with managers to discuss their perspective of having a union, a clear unfair labor practice. Employees were even threatened with losing benefits if the union was voted in e.g. their favorable vehicle leasing and pricing rights. And, this is not to mention the massive ad campaign that was aimed at the community. Now all of these nafarious activities are always imposed by bosses to sabotage unions, no matter who or where the employees are, but white supremacy comes into play here because these illegal tactics against these primarily African workers will certainly go unpunished and widely unreported. And before anyone says the same has happened to white workers, this is often true, but for African people, this isn't a situation in some areas or on occasion, this is our daily experience. Its the same dominant message that slaves should be happy to just accept the fact the master lets them work on the plantation. This is the most widely promoted vision for us in this society. All of this will happen when the truth is what sane African worker would consider themselves better off without a union. Please focus on the word sane here. No where are workers who don't have a union better paid, in possession of better health care, and working in safer conditions, than when they have a union in place. No one knows that better than us last hired, first fired, African masses. So, just a clue. The fact a primarily African work place voted against having a union is a clear sign to you that underhanded stuff has to be in play. The business community in Canton calling the union a divisive force is code for saying they are riling up the slaves against the master. They are the ones creating division by intimidating people and working to keep working people poor, disorganized, and oppressed by class conditions and white supremacy.
Colin Kaepernick, who clearly is much better, despite his inability to reclaim is 2013 play, than several who have been signed to contracts this off season, remains unemployed by concerted effort to punish him, like the runaway slave per Harry Belefonte. In other words, "rise out of your place and we will punish you boy!" That's whats happening with Kaepernick and several intelligent football players like Richard Sherman have said as much themselves despite the uncle tom cooning of people like Mike Vick and Ray Lewis.
The confluence here is that this capitalist society is still a master/slave society. African people are still considered the property of the European capitalist class. To them, our sole purpose is to entertain and serve them. And the thought that we would dare rise up and organize against them? Challenge them on the racist practices of the system that protects them? How dare us slaves think that?
For people of justice the lesson here is that there is no cause to mourn any of this. The fact that the union vote was so close in an environment of such historic racism and systemic oppression is amazing. instead of viewing this as a defeat, serious labor organizers should view it as a successful notification that the right organizing and timing will bring unionization to the South where millions of African workers are ready to lead the way to collective bargaining.
And, just like on the plantation, the master could castrate, behead, whip, and punish the runaway slave, but more always followed. In fact, we would argue that the inability of the plantation system to stop the slave revolts was the primary reason, not the civil war, for the eventual end of the slave system. Kaepernick's efforts, despite whether he ever plays in the NFL again, have inspired an entire generation of athletes and non-athletes. All of us are not stupid. The solidarity actions of many athletes, including many non-African ones, demonstrates that plenty of people see the contraction that millions of white fans will boo Kaep, refuse to buy tickets if he joins a team, and threaten the ownerships who had the audacity to even speak with him. But, those same racist fans are silent on players who brutalize their partners, kill people, and engage in other sick and dysfunctional human behavior. People see that those same fans will criticize Kaep for "bringing politics into sports" while ignoring the fact that it was the imperialist U.S. military that did that by paying the NFL millions of dollars to have those ridiculous displays of ignorant patriotism towards imperialism as a part of every game.
The contradictions are there for all to see. Democracy and a voice is there for you as long as you do it in a way that benefits big business and the capitalist entity. The problem for us is big business and the capitalist entity are against the interests of African people so we know whenever we stand up for our existence we will be at odds in this society. That's why these instances are nothing except white supremacy. Its also why our enemies may try and convince themselves that they are winning, but what I'm seeing is their time is just about up.