We must forcefully call out, condemn white supremacy


(Aug. 8. 2019) — At a May rally in Florida, President Donald Trump lamented what he views as limits to his power to remove immigrants and refugees from this country and mused, “How do you stop these people?”

When a man in the audience yelled, ”Shoot them!” the president smiled and made a joke about it.

This past weekend we saw two mass shootings where, in the course of 13 hours, two men in cities hundreds of miles apart killed at least 32 people. While the motive behind the Dayton shooting remains murky, the motive for the shooting in El Paso is horrifyingly clear. Twenty-two people are dead because of the actions of a white supremacist with a AR-15, a white supremacist whose own words explaining his actions mirror the rhetoric of the President of the United States with sickening similarity.

On this, we must be clear and emphatic. The shooting in El Paso — like the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and the Chabad of Powar synagogue in Poway, Calif., and the killing of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va. — was an act of white supremacist terror, committed by a man indoctrinated by the rhetoric of white supremacy, the same rhetoric that the President of the United States repeats and amplifies.

When Trump calls for four congresswomen of color to “go back to where they came from,” he is repeating and amplifying the beliefs of white supremacists. When his ICE officers are detaining and even deporting U.S. citizens who are not white, he is doing the work of white supremacy, trying to make this country more white. When Trump demeans and belittles Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and calls the majority-black city of Baltimore “a disgusting rat and rodent infested mess,” he is doing the work of white supremacy. When Trump describes immigrants as an invading horde, an infestation, a caravan coming to replace Americans in their jobs and communities, he is energizing and inciting white supremacists.

And white supremacists know this.

At the 2017 Charlottesville rally, where white nationalists openly chanted “You will not replace us,” David Duke made it clear: “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”

It is no coincidence that hate crimes in the United States have risen steadily since 2017. It is no coincidence that all but two acts of terror that have occurred on U.S. soil since 2017 have been committed by white supremacists or white nationalists. It is no coincidence that the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center have both tracked an increase in white supremacist and white nationalist groups in the U.S.


The President of the United States is using his power to incite violence against immigrants, to sow distrust amongst Americans, and to try to divide this country by hate.

As working people, we have seen these attempts to divide us by race and to terrorize communities before. We know that racism is stoked by the wealthy elite to divide the working class and undermine their solidarity and common cause. We know these tactics are rotten to their core.

But we also know that we have power, too. As leaders in the labor movement, as citizens, as people with the right to vote, we have power.

“Above all, we must take our power to do the thing that works best to stop racism: Vote!” writes the Texas AFL-CIO in response to the El Paso. “Lift up those who stand for justice and hold others accountable on Nov. 3rd, 2020 and in every election.”

And we must use our voices to forcefully condemn white supremacy, no matter where we encounter it — in the actions of a domestic terrorist or in the words of a president.

To paraphrase Edmund Burke: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

Larry Brown is president and April Sims is secretary treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The WSLC is the largest union organization in the state, representing more than 600 labor organizations with some 550,000 rank-and-file members.


ALSO at The Stand — Washington state’s unions recommit to combating racism — At the WSLC’s 2019 Convention on July 25-27, delegates from across the state unanimously approved Resolution #30, the latest in a series of directives from grassroots rank-and-file union members to advance the WSLC’s ground-breaking efforts to educate union members about the origins and consequences of racism. It notes that unions, which lift wages and working conditions of all workers regardless of color or background, are uniquely positioned to advocate for racial justice and have a responsibility to do so on behalf of not only their members, but also the entire working class.


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