Workers Vanguard No. 1095
9 September 2016
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
A View From The Left-Salute Colin Kaepernick’s Protest Against Cop Terror!
Don’t Kneel for Racist U.S. Imperialism!
The National Football League is a multimillion-dollar business, its players almost 70 percent black. Its owners and executives, who are almost 100 percent white, don’t like anyone stirring up trouble on their sports plantation. Anonymous NFL executives denounced Kaepernick as a “traitor,” with one comparing him to a former NFL player who hired a hit man to murder his pregnant girlfriend! The White House press spokesman weighed in calling Kaepernick’s remarks “objectionable,” while echoing the hypocritical liberal refrain that his supposed freedom to do so is embodied in the blood-drenched flag of American imperialism. President Obama himself later intoned that, while “tough” for cops and the military to stomach, Kaepernick’s protest is “how democracy works.”
The Santa Clara cops who police the 49ers’ stadium warned that Kaepernick’s actions have “threatened our harmonious working relationship” with the team. This was echoed by the president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association who threatened, “we will not stand by while he attacks police officers in this country.” As the body count of black people gunned down on the streets by the cops daily mounts, the police are particularly incensed when “uppity” black athletes, musicians and other prominent figures protest these racist atrocities.
There is a long roster of black athletes who have been vilified by the capitalist masters for defying the rituals of the so-called “land of the free.” Among them are those who are now rallying behind Kaepernick. These include Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze winners in the 1968 Olympics who were banished from the U.S. team and given 48 hours to get out of Mexico after raising their fists in the “black power” salute while “The Star Spangled Banner” was played during the medal ceremony. Former Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown and NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have also taken a stand with the 49er quarterback as they did with Muhammad Ali when he refused to be drafted into U.S. imperialism’s dirty war against Vietnamese workers and peasants.
Ali, who was stripped of his boxing title and livelihood, sharply linked U.S. imperialist war abroad to racial oppression at home:
“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor, hungry people in the mud for big, powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me n‑‑‑‑r, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.”
On September 1 in San Diego, Kaepernick again refused to stand for the national anthem, and this time was joined by teammate Eric Reid. But rather than remaining seated, they got down on one knee as “a way to show more respect for the men and women that fight for this country.” But the murderous repression of black people in the U.S. is more than matched by U.S. imperialism’s bloody wars overseas, from the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the millions of Vietnamese who were killed in the war against “godless Communism,” to the more recent wars, occupations and drone strikes against the peoples of the Near East.
As former Army Ranger Rory Fanning who did two tours in Afghanistan and is now part of #VeteransForKaepernick said in an interview with Jacobin (31 August):
“I have a difficult time standing for the national anthem. I entered the military fully expecting to be fighting for the cause of freedom and democracy, and trusting that I would be making the world safer after 9/11....
“The numbers alone show that the world is far more dangerous after fifteen years of endless American-led war. Since 9/11 we’ve also killed a million people, the vast majority civilians. We are killing brown people with impunity overseas, just like we are killing people of color with impunity here at home.”
Fanning served in the same unit as former NFL player Pat Tillman. Killed in 2004, Tillman was cynically made the poster boy for the warmongering George W. Bush administration, which promoted him as a heroic model of American patriotism who died at the hands of the “enemy.” In fact, Tillman, whose experience in Afghanistan led him to oppose the subsequent invasion of Iraq in 2003, was killed by “friendly fire.”
The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world where the national anthem is regularly played at domestic sports events, for the purpose of disappearing the class and racial divisions of society behind the myth of national unity and rallying the population behind American imperialism’s wars. That union members are also expected to stand for the national anthem or pledge of allegiance at their meetings is a savage indictment of the labor misleaders who have shackled the workers to the aims and interests of their capitalist exploiters. Gains won in hard-fought labor battles of the past have been sacrificed on the altar of patriotism, which is also wielded to pit workers against their class brothers and sisters abroad in the name of defending “American jobs.”
From the time of slavery, American capitalism has been rooted in the forcible subjugation of the black population at the bottom of society. “The Star Spangled Banner” was written by a Maryland slave owner, Francis Scott Key, who reviled blacks as “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” Written during the War of 1812, its little known third stanza, which includes the line “no refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” is a celebration of the killing of slaves who, promised their freedom, fought on the side of the British. Key was part of an inbred social caste of slaveowners and defenders of slavery. His sister married Roger Taney, the Supreme Court chief justice who authored the infamous 1857 Dred Scott ruling which declared that black people “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” The author of the national anthem would have been an opponent of the present U.S. Constitution as amended after slavery was smashed in the Civil War.
Frederick Douglass, a former slave and abolitionist leader, stripped bare the hypocrisy of America’s pretensions to freedom and democracy:
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”
— “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” (July 1852)
It took a bloody Civil War, the Second American Revolution, to shatter the chains of chattel slavery. It will take a third American revolution—a proletarian socialist revolution—to break the chains of wage slavery and open the road to black freedom. The anthem of this fight will be the words of the “Internationale”: “No more tradition’s chains shall bind us; Arise, ye slaves no more in thrall! The earth shall rise on new foundations; We have been naught, we shall be all!”