By Frank Hammer.

In mid-July, a controversy broke out over General Motors bankrolling rock star Kid Rock concerts in the wake of the the downing of the confederate flag in So. Carolina, Alabama, and elsewhere.    The stink was raised by long time Detroit activist Reverend Charles Williams II who is also the President of the National Action Network (NAN), Michigan chapter.  Kid Rock, also known by his given name, Robert James Richie, created a rock and roll persona over the past decade awash with the confederate flag.  Williams threatened a protest against GM’s sponsorship of Kid Rock’s summer concerts, and had a meeting with company representatives on July 16th.  It was apparently an amicable meeting – Kid Rock, his publicist said, hasn’t used the confederate flag as one of his props for years.  Apparently he won’t this summer as well.  So NAN agreed to not hold a protest.  What appears below was written before that meeting.

Based on the accounts I’ve read so far, I think GM can continue to sponsor Kid Rock concerts under one condition: he repudiates the confederate battle flag.  [Disclosure: I don’t follow Kid Rock]

Given how he used the flag as a way of “branding” himself, he has a special responsibility to make clear where he stands now.  As the story goes, he stopped using the flag as part of his white rocker image after establishing a favorable relationship with the NAACP in Detroit.  His decision, the story further goes, was made “quietly.”

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If it was for the right reasons – that the NAACP convinced him that the flag is a racist piece of treasonous poison – then he should have no problem explaining it to the world.  This is important in the wake of the horrific, cowardly murders of 9 black worshippers by a brainwashed white male in Charleston, South Carolina who also wrapped himself in the confederate flag.

I’m hearing just the opposite.  In response to NAN, a Black civil rights organization which criticized his sponsor, General Motors – he said, “Please tell the people who are protesting to kiss my a–.”  Uttering these remarks towards Charles Williams, a Black preacher, in the wake of the cold-blooded murder of Minister Pinckney in So. Carolina, shows how much Kid Rock is out of touch, to say the least.

The families of the loved ones who were murdered showed remarkable forgiveness in the wake of the killings, despite the savage injustices committed against them. The least Kid Rock can do now is speak with humility and honesty, instead of arrogance, about his past embrace of the confederate flag.  He could follow South Carolinians – white and black – in their repudiation of it.

A white Sterling Heights, MI friend and wife of a retired autoworker asked me, “isn’t the confederate flag just like the flag with the swastika in Germany?”  She gets it!  Does Kid Rock?

A Jewish woman living in Germany would be uneasy at best if she had to live daily with swastika flags and symbols hanging all around because neo Nazis consider them a symbol of a “rebel spirit.”  Nonsense.  The swastika was a symbol of racist state terror.  And so is the confederate flag.

Let Kid Rock explain this to his followers to free them from racist ignorance, and build bridges with the people who’ve been its victims.  Then GM could sponsor Kid Rock all they want.

The question that’s not been raised is why Kid Rock wants to associate himself with a transnational corporation like GM which has blood on its hands in its callous disregard for the lives of its customers and its workers?  GM ignored the vehicle deaths it caused by knowingly installing Chevys with flawed ignition switches, and insisting it only knew of 13, when there were nearly 10 times as many.  GM also covers up horrific working conditions in its plants in countries like India, Brazil and Colombia which cause workers disabling injuries in the hundreds and thousands, after which GM throws them to the streets.  Maybe Kid Rock should tell GM to “kiss his a___,” instead.  Then he could be a “rebel” for real.

Graphic: Injured GM workers in Colombia protested their illegal firings in 2012 with a 22-day hunger strike, which included the use of needle and thread to sew their lips shut.  GM has refused to rehire them on jobs they can do, as required by Colombian law, or give them disability pensions also required by Colombia law.  On August 1, 2015 they and labor activists in the U.S. and abroad will commemorate their fourth anniversary at a tent encampment in front of the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. Artist: Paige Shell Spurling

Frank Hammer

Frank Hammer is a member of the Real News Network Board of Directors, and has been a social justice activist for nearly 50 years. He spent the last 40 years in the labor movement as an autoworker and a member, elected officer, staff representative, and now retiree of the United Auto Workers. Frank was the former president of the Greenacres Woodward Civic Association in Detroit, and he currently represents the association as a member of the Michigan State Fairgrounds Advisory Committee. He is a lecturer in the Labor Studies Programs at Wayne State and Indiana Universities. He’s a board member of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, an activist with South East Michigan Jobs with Justice, the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW-UAW), and the Autoworker Caravan.