August 14, 2017
Statement by Rev. Terry Melvin
President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
This weekend the worst of our Nation gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to demand the restoration of white supremacy. Under the guise of “Uniting the Right,” white racists rallied under the banners of the Confederate Flag, the Nazi Flag, and most importantly their whiteness. No longer donning hooded masks, they grabbed their red MAGA caps and Tiki torches and made a public display that their white privilege will no longer be threatened by the voice and inclusion of non-heterosexual white males. This is what this was all about. White people fearing they have lost their power to oppress others. In their fear of losing control, and empowered by a leader who is silent about their hate, they marched angrily and when that didn’t work they took to violence to prove their point.
In grand irony, these white racists grabbed the banners of regimes toppled by American greatness. The Confederate treasonous rebels were vanquished by an American army made up of Blacks and Whites. It was the inclusion of Black soldiers that helped us defeat these former slave owners. In Nazi Germany, it was brave US soldiers, both Black and White once again, who helped stop the continued genocide of millions of Jews and end the rule of Adolf Hitler. These great victories in American history are now vilified by the descendants of the very Americans who brought us victory. The only thing Confederates and Nazis share in common is that they were both defeated, and like history has taught, they will again be defeated by a coalition of Americans representing our great Nation.
As Black folk, we have always known this side of America exists. Racism has never disappeared. Racial attacks have not ended. And white men exerting their power and privilege on others is nothing new. What is unique is the tone deaf silence we find in the 45th President. Trump has been apt to condemn and mock anyone or anything he finds offensive. He has no problem commenting on women bleeding, but has no comment when someone is literally bleeding from being hit by a car. His lack of commentary is indicative of his relationship to the white racists. While I do not believe all those who support this president are racist, I do believe all racists support this president. His lack of actions and words have reinforced this fact.
We at CBTU condemn the racists and white supremacists of Charlottesville. While we appreciate that they have left their hooded Klan cloaks at home, we do not tolerate their hate. We as Black Americans have a history of confronting and surviving this type of hate. It is second nature to us. And while the rest of America may be shocked to see it so vividly, we see it daily. It is a known enemy that we have fought for centuries and will continue to fight until we see it eradicated. We at CBTU support the counter protestors and commit to stay in the fight against all White racists wherever they may be.
CBTU, which was founded in 1972, is the largest, independent voice of more than 2.2 million African American workers in labor unions today. With more than 50 chapters in major U.S. cities and one in Ontario, Canada, CBTU is dedicated to addressing the unique concerns of black workers and their communities. CBTU is a strong supporter of low-wage workers who are fighting for respect and the right to have a voice on their jobs.
In 2007, CBTU provided critical early union support for Barack Obama’s historic campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008, introducing him to black voters who were very skeptical then that an African American could ever reach the Oval Office. CBTU went on to galvanize tens of thousands of African American voters and union households in key states on behalf of President Obama’s victorious campaigns in 2008 and 2012.
Rev. Terry L. Melvin, who was elected to lead the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists in 2012, is also the secretary-treasurer of the powerful New York State AFL-CIO. He succeeded CBTU President Emeritus William (Bill) Lucy, the iconic labor leader who co-founded CBTU in 1972.