Colin Kaepernick’s Brave Words Are About More than Freedom of Speech

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The liberal reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand up for “The National Anthem,” and his comments about this principled act of resistance, is that “America” is a free country, and “Americans” are therefore free to voice their opinions no matter what they are.

This attempt to avoid controversy– and “racial tensions”– places Kaepernick’s actions and words in the context of freedom of speech: a right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.  So the liberal view (barely distinguishable from the conservative view) is that “America” is great, because it guarantees the right to free speech.  And this liberal attempt to smooth over divisions in society– deep, historical differences that are basic to “America”‘s existence– has the potential effect of erasing Colin Kaepernick’s actual message.  But, then again, it’s a frequently used liberal tactic to protect the interests of the bourgeois ruling class by softening the language of the oppressor without truly challenging the basis for this oppression.

The next time a professional athlete says something homophobic, transphobic, racist or sexist, or defends the murderous actions of the military or police, liberals will have already given up ground to the enemy (capitalism) by arguing that these statements are just a matter of free speech.

According to the liberal view, the differences between the oppressor (white nationalist, colonial capitalism) and the oppressed (Africans/Black people, Indigenous peoples and, in general terms, people of color) are almost meaningless: we’re all “Americans” with rights guaranteed by the Constitution.  What is meaningful to the liberal is the same thing that’s meaningful to the conservative: the U.S. Constitution, and the philosophical idealist dream of “America.”  Never mind that the Constitution and “America” have never meant actual freedom for colonized Africans and Indigenous peoples– people of color.  In philosophical materialist terms, “America” is just a settler colony of European imperialist capitalism, an empire built on white supremacy, patriarchy, and ongoing genocide against Africa and the world.

Once we recognize the dialectic of the oppressor and the oppressed (or the colonizer and the colonized), we can then recognize that we are in a war of ideas.  Colin Kaepernick recognizes these divisions exist.  He didn’t create them.  The Black Lives Matter movement didn’t create the divisions in “America.”  This “divisive” situation was created when Europe invaded Africa and the Americas more than five hundred years ago.  The United States was built on this division.

Capitalism requires the division between the parasitic, oppressive bourgeoisie and the oppressed masses of the global proletariat, whose exploited labor, resources and lives are the basis for the wealth and power that white people enjoy.  This dialectic (colonizer/colonized) must be enforced through violence, and that’s why Black bodies are in the streets while police officers get paid leave for murder– to paraphrase Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick bravely chose a side in this conflict.  He used his status as a football star to heighten the contradictions of capitalism and to point out the material reality of the United States, beyond the hazy fantasies of the American flag and “The National Anthem.”  His brave stand against white supremacist, colonial aggression involves more than simply voicing an opinion.

Perhaps we are guaranteed the right to voice our opinions in this country– that is, some of us, some of the time.  But do the oppressed actually have any right or power to improve their conditions by stating their views?  If it’s only a question of one’s ability to voice an opinion (no matter what it is– hooray for America!), then: no.  But if it’s about mobilizing and then organizing the masses of oppressed people in order to gain real political power: we can answer “yes!” when the people are victorious in this struggle.

The challenge for white people isn’t to pat ourselves on our collective back because we believe Colin Kaepernick has the right, as an “American,” to speak his mind.  The challenge for whites who believe Black Lives Matter, and who value freedom, peace, equality and justice (as opposed to “America”) is to choose a side.  Choose to fight on the side of the oppressed and to materially support African revolutionaries wherever they are in the world.  Pay reparations to Black people.  Support a complete and qualitative change to the system of power: organize for socialism.  Stop violent white reactionaries.  Choose the side of Colin Kaepernick and the people he has courageously spoken for– not just because he has the freedom to do so, but because Black people are not free.

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Colin Kaepernick’s Brave Words Are About More than Freedom of Speech

The Police Murders of Colonized Communities and All Murders of Trans People of Color Are Connected

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When Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department shot Michael Brown multiple times and murdered him on August 9, 2014, the ideas in Officer Wilson’s head didn’t come from himself.

Darren Wilson was raised and trained in a system of power that put the ideas in his head that Black lives lack value, and that Black people must be controlled, killed, and left to bleed in the street for hours without any respect given to our shared humanity.

Not only did Darren Wilson get these ideas from the current system of power, he was, in fact, empowered by this system.  This system is white supremacist, patriarchal, colonial capitalism.

The material basis for Officer Darren Wilson’s murderous actions was capitalism’s control of the means of production in society.  The ruling class that controls the means of production for the entire society is white supremacist, patriarchal, and capitalist, and these ideas of the ruling class permeate all classes within the tiered structure of this bourgeois society.

When any person– typically a cisgender man– has murdered a Black transgender woman, the violent ideas in his head did not originate with himself.  The bourgeois view will tell us that he was simply an evil or troubled man.  The bourgeois media, schools, politicians, churches, and corporations (if they pay any attention at all to the death of a Black transgender woman) will attempt to disconnect the murderous acts of this individual from the larger society.

The bourgeois view is to isolate both the murderer and the victim from the root cause, which is the system of power that put the ideas for violence in the head of the murderer, and which marginalized and endangered the victim even before they were murdered (basically, for their entire life).

The reason the bourgeois view attempts to isolate these individuals and events is that it is not in the material interests of the bourgeoisie, or the petty bourgeoisie who depend on the ruling class for our benefits, to make this connection.  If we were to make the connection between 1) a cisgender man’s murder of a transgender woman of color and 2) the system of power, then the source of all our material benefits, and therefore the entire structure of society, would be called into question– and this cannot be allowed by capitalism because it goes against its interests.

Even when a trans person of color takes their own life, the root cause of this suicide is the same as when a cis man murders a trans woman of color.  The transphobic ideology of capitalism, as well as its violent prevention of access to the material necessities of life, are the fundamental cause of suicide by a trans person of color.  And this root cause is connected to the same cause that empowered Officer Darren Wilson to murder Michael Brown two years ago, because they are both part of the same system: capitalism.

Capitalism was born white supremacist, patriarchal and imperialist when Europe attacked Africa and the Americas more than five hundred years ago.  European society was transphobic, homophobic, and misogynistic at the time of its attack on Africa.  Other societies around the globe were also patriarchal, but all societies, according to the objective laws of nature, evolve over time from one stage to the next.  And when Europe attacked Africa and the world, a global economic system locked the many societies of the world into place, all under the oppressive, parasitic control of the white ruling class.

Since capitalism is based on the few exploiting the many for the material enjoyment of the few, the ideological class interests of Europe have (naturally) moved to protect themselves.  For this reason, Europeans invented race and racism, and the white supremacist ideology, as well as “America” (a settler colony of Europe), in order to protect the wealth and power of a “race” and class who now identified as “white” in a dialectic where we’re the colonizers, and Africans, indigenous peoples and the majority of humanity are the colonized, from whose labor, resources, land and lives we materially benefit.

This rigid class structure must move to protect its interests, with cisgender, heterosexual white men at the top of the structure.  And capitalism must always move– as a reactionary force– to suppress any revolutionary movement from below.  The existence of capitalism depends on this dialectic remaining in place, and it remains in place through violence.

Capitalism doesn’t care who commits this violent, as long as their reactionary acts of violence promote the ideological and material interests of the white, cis/het ruling class.  Capitalism doesn’t care whether this violence is committed by someone in uniform or out of uniform.  Capitalism doesn’t care if this violence is committed by a white person or a Black person.  In fact, a white transgender woman may also commit this violence by taking up space in nonprofit organizations, or not paying Black women for their organizing and artistic work, or (in general) not paying reparations to Black people.  As long as the rigid system of power is kept in place, capitalism doesn’t care who the individual is, as long as they are promoting capitalism’s interests.

In conclusion, violence against Black people is not a question of the individual, whether it’s Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department murdering Michael Brown, or any cis man (Black, white, or another “race”) murdering a Black trans woman.  It’s a question of systemic power, and the ability of oppressed communities to protect themselves.  And when a Black trans person takes their own life (like our hero Blake Brockington) the root cause of this violence is still the same as the root cause for the murder of Michael Brown or for the murders of Black trans women (whose murderers are often not even pursued by the white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist system).  All of these deaths are the result of ideas having been put in the heads of individuals by a system that is anti-Black, anti-Black women, anti-Black trans women, and, of course,  anti-working class Black people.  Anyone who murders a Black trans woman, or abuses her in any way, is promoting the interests of a racist, anti-Black system.

To be transphobic is to be anti-Black.  To be homophobic is to be anti-Black.  To be sexist is to be anti-Black.  And capitalism, of course, is anti-Black.  Because all these forms of systemic violence are rooted in the same system of power, and they all come from the ideology and material interests of the white-controlled ruling class.  The ruling class is content with violence being committed by anybody– Black, white, trans, cis, queer, straight, woman, man, rich, poor– existing at any one of these intersectional identities, as long as this reactionary violence benefits the rigid, tiered structure of capitalist society.

Any time a Black trans person is murdered, just like the murder of Michael Brown, the system that put the idea for destruction in the mind of the killer is the same: white supremacist, patriarchal, colonial capitalism.  Capitalism is the main enemy of trans people, Black people, people of color and all of humanity.

The Police Murders of Colonized Communities and All Murders of Trans People of Color Are Connected