Local 793 Stands in Solidarity Against Racism
In the past week, we have seen massive protests erupt across the United States and around the world, including here in Canada, spurred by the murder of a black man named George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer named Derek Chauvin.
An article in Rolling Stone magazine pointed out that the police officer, now charged with the third-degree murder of Floyd, may not have intended to kill him while kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes, “but simply didn’t care whether or not Floyd died.” In the widely circulated video, Chauvin can be seen with his hands in his pockets while nonchalantly pressing his knee to the neck of Floyd and ignoring his pleas that he could not breathe, eventually calling out for his mama in desperation.
The Rolling Stone article also points out that the Minneapolis police department had recently had its budget increased by $2.4 million, allowing them to hire an additional 14 police officers. This is a police force that has killed black people at a rate 13 times higher than their white counterparts from 2013-2019.
It is obvious that arresting one racist police officer for third-degree murder will not solve the systemic racism in the United States, since sadly the murder of Floyd is not a one-off situation. With the prevalence of video, deaths like Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Eric Garner that are filmed by concerned citizens will continue to expose wrongdoing by the police. Police officers need to be better trained to not exert unnecessary force in arresting suspects of crime and racist individuals should not be hired in the first place.
Unfortunately, violence and murder against black people in America, like mass shootings, has been all too common throughout history. Whether in Canada or the United States, the problem goes much deeper than individual prejudiced beliefs against people of colour, and the true systematic nature of racism ensures that black people are consistently disadvantaged personally, economically and socially.
I believe that the root cause of racism is simple hate. Statistics have been showing in both Canada and the United States that the COVID-19 virus is killing poor people and people of colour at a much higher rate than the rest of the population. Likely due to the fact that they disproportionately make up those employed in low-paid work deemed essential during this health crisis, the irony of which should not be lost on anyone.
The issue of racism will be impossible to solve once the protests begin to subside if we do not also address the issue of inequality. Poverty and inequity have been growing at an increased rate as corporate CEOs and upper management get uber rich, pay little tax, and continue moving their manufacturing to countries like Mexico, China and other low wage non-Union parts of the world. While here in North America, the loss of jobs, growing poverty and hopelessness becomes a breeding ground for the right-wing populism that led to the election of President Trump in the first place.
It is to state the obvious to say that “Black Lives Matter,” and I believe that to be true. Black lives matter. As a white man, I cannot say that I know what it feels like to be a victim of racism. Although I support the Black Lives Matter movement against racism, I am opposed to the violence and looting that has occurred during some of these protest. But I am also opposed to the violence and pepper spraying and tear gas deployed by police against peaceful protesters.
As a Union, we have members who we continue to welcome who are black, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, as well as a growing number of female members. We are not sexist, nor racist and we cannot ignore it when our members suffer discrimination. They are our brothers and sisters and we will always stand shoulder to shoulder with them and fight for a better, more just society absent of the hate and racism demonstrated in police brutality videos across the Unites States.
I chose not to be silent on the issue of racism and I recommend each of you get the conversation going amongst yourselves. Unions have long played the role of representation for human rights issues. We in the labour movement have to be part of the solution, which means being inclusive and rejecting racism whenever we see or hear it.