Last month a scene unfolded on the grounds of the US Capitol that was almost unimaginable.
White supremacists, at the urging of former Pres. Donald Trump, lay siege to Congress in an attempt to overturn the results of a fair, democratic election.
Fed lies for months about false claims of voter fraud, insurrectionists beat police and destroyed government property. When the dust settled, six people had passed away from the events of that day.
Then, just two weeks later came another event that many of us also thought we’d never see:
A Black and Indian woman being sworn in as Vice President of the United States by the first-ever Latina US Supreme Court Justice.
Both of those events stir up a myriad of emotions. One highlights the worst about our country. The other shines a spotlight on the best.
They are both accurate. They are both linked. They are both our America.
Black History Month 2021 comes after the worldwide protests last summer sparked by the tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, a wakeup call for many who finally realized the daily dangers faced by people of color.
This year’s Black History celebration also comes amid a global pandemic that has hit minority communities the hardest, and yet again exposed the domino effects of systemic racism.
And even while unemployment for working families and lower-income Americans has skyrocketed, SEIU 721 and others have been under attack from anti-union forces like the Freedom Foundation trying to trick members into dropping their protection.
The same racists who are behind the “Right to Work” scam are the same who want to deny rights to working people. That’s why the labor movement and civil rights movement must work together – we simply cannot have economic justice without racial justice.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a speech called “If the Negro Wins, Labor Wins,” and in it he talks about how the history of African-Americans mirrors the history of the labor movement.
“Our needs are identical with labor’s needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, and health and welfare measures… That is why Negroes support labor’s demands and fight laws which curb labor,” Dr. King said. “That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.”
The Biden/Harris administration has pledged to support working people, help restore protections unions have fought for, and to work tirelessly to dismantle white supremacy. We are hopeful and excited that this is a turning point, but we can’t rest and leave this work in the hands of others.
It will take all of us working together, having each others’ backs, and calling out racism for what it is for things to change.
This month, we highlight the accomplishments of African Americans, but this celebration is for all Americans because Black history is American history, and when Black people win, we all win.
So, Happy Black History Month. May you and your loved ones stay safe and stay well.
Bob Schoonover, President SEIU 721
Linda Dent, Vice-President SEIU 721
David Green, SEIU 721 Treasurer
Lillian Cabral, SEIU 721 Secretary