Recently, Nissan donated $100,000 to the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute. Does Nissan really believe that $100,000 can suffice for the dignity, stability and reverence the civil rights era is entitled to? Perhaps Nissan needs to become more aware of the people, place and history of the state in which they are located. Conceivably, Nissan needs to reevaluate their perception of Mississippians and realize we are not a state of simple minded, cheap labored citizens. No, we are a state with citizens that posses vitality and dignity. Nissan forgets the history that Mississippi retains. Mississippi’s citizens were soldiers in the fight for civil rights. These civil rights that were fought for, we’re not just race imbedded, but for the labor movement, for the poverty stricken neighborhoods without a voice. But most important, the civil rights movement was built on the foundation of solidarity, sacrifice and leadership of many, including Martin Luther King Jr., Lamar Smith and Medgar Evers.
We are happy for the Institute that Nissan donated the money, but to give $100,000 to a cause and not fully comprehend the importance of that cause is a repugnant action. What we are saying, as students in Mississippi, is that Nissan’s hypocrisy is becoming blatantly transparent.
Look at it this way: Would one purchase a vehicle, house or anything worth a large sum without fully understanding or accepting what they were about to invest in? Of course not, especially if that particular thing is worthy of the time, comprehension and value it is believed to have. Yet, it seems to Nissan that the Medgar Evers memorial is not worth the time and comprehension that is deserved. No, because the time it took to write a $100,000 check, and the time it took to strategize how it would benefit their public image, was the true value Nissan saw. If Nissan genuinely embraced the values promoted by the Edgars Institute, it would not be waging a campaign of intimidation against workers seeking to exercise the fundamental civil right of joining together to gain a voice on the job.
Medgar Evers was a man of morals, compassion and perseverance. He fought alongside MLK who believed that “The two most dynamic and cohesive liberal forces in the country are the labor movement and the Negro freedom movement.”
We believe as impassioned, intelligent and well-read students that make up the Mississippi Student Justice Alliance that Medgar Evers would be mobilizing us in this effort to fight for the Nissan workers. Though he is not with us, he has left a prodigious legacy and history that must be both appreciated and studied as we move forward. Evers fully believed in the power, zealousness and potential of the youth in the movement. We are something to be afraid of because our silence cannot be bought; our morals and ethics are invaluable. Some mistakenly underestimate or don’t see our strength and potential. Our reason for organizing is what this great nation was founded upon.
Last, we must reiterate that we students are glad Nissan is in Mississippi. We do, however, strongly disagree with the injustice Nissan has committed by interfering with the efforts of its workers to form a union. Nissan workers have unionized in plants all over the world but not in Canton, Miss. Why is that? Why are Mississippi workers’ rights not as salient as those of other workers? Are the Canton workers’ voices, needs and aspirations not worth “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? In Nissan’s eyes the answer to these questions is, yes, the Canton workers are valuable but not more valuable than a $100,000 check.
Mississippi Student Justice Alliance member and student activist