(NNPA)—On Sept. 15, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka did something quite fascinating. He spoke to a labor audience in St. Louis about race and racism. What was particularly noteworthy is that he was not speaking to a largely Black or Latino audience. [To hear and see the speech, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny8loBhqmhc.]
I have known Richard Trumka for almost 25 years. He has been outspoken against race and racism, but what is significant here is that all too often Whites speak about race and racism to the victims of this oppression, specifically, to African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans. No matter how powerful a speech it may be, it always begs a simple question: Why are you telling us what we already know?
Trumka decided to flip the script. Seizing on the anger that has arisen in connection with the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Trumka went to the Missouri AFL-CIO Convention to, among other things, speak about race and class. His audience was not the tried and true. Although it was racially mixed, Trumka was especially targeting his remarks towards White trade unionists, many of who have contradictory attitudes toward race and racism.