Doug Moore
UDW/AFSCME Local 3930

America Must Be Held Accountable for the Original Sin of Slavery

Jun 2, 2020 | Commentary

Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd.

These are the names of just some of the Black people who have been senselessly murdered in the U.S. this year. And for the past seven days since George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police, cities and towns across the country have seen uprisings of a magnitude we haven’t seen since the 1960s.

Except now, the young Black people leading these revolts refuse to turn the other cheek. They are fed up and fighting back, rightfully so. Across the world, from New Zealand to Germany, people are coming together to say enough is enough.

This can be a turning point if we let it be.

Many of us thought that after Trayvon Martin, after Mike Brown, after Sandra Bland and countless others, things would change. And it’s true – some things have changed. Some police officers have been held accountable, like Botham Jean’s killer, police officer Amber Guyger, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his death.

But it is no longer enough to say that the police officers responsible for the death of George Floyd should be held accountable. If police violence against Black Americans is just a case of a few bad apples, then why hasn’t anyone gotten rid of them? How do more of these “few bad apples” keep popping up?

It is no longer enough to say that voting alone is the answer. After all, Minneapolis voted Ilhan Omar to Congress, a Black Muslim woman and staunch progressive – and George Floyd was still murdered there. 

The current and ever ongoing issue of police violence is now compounded by the COVID-19 virus which we know disproportionately impacts Black people. One might ask why that is but for those of us who are students of history we have an understanding of how where you live, access to healthcare and quality food impact determines your overall health and quality of life. This too is rooted in structural racism. Before we can move forward, before there can be healing, before we can truly end systemic and institutional racism, America must be held accountable for its original sin against Black people: slavery.

I’ve been to South Africa, I’ve been to Germany. The horrors that happened in these places – apartheid, the Holocaust – are not just swept under the rug, they are acknowledged. But where is that same acknowledgement in America?

Sure, we learn about three-fifths. We learn about Jim Crow laws. We learn about the Civil Rights Movement. But how many people know about structural racism? How many people know about intergenerational trauma, about the PTSD – caused by slavery – that has been passed down to every African-American in this country? How many people understand that generally worse health outcomes for Black people in America can be tied directly to this trauma?

This can be a turning point if we let it be.

But we need to have courage. Our leaders need to have courage to change policy and to address the disparate treatment of Black people in this country. To defund institutions that continue to murder our people. Our leaders need to acknowledge slavery and the 155 years of trauma that followed it. Our leaders need to understand and acknowledge the ways in which Jim Crow has evolved overtime to something more socially acceptable – mass incarceration.  Our leaders need to acknowledge that structural racism permeates every fiber of America and it is rampant in all of this nations various institutions. And they need to do all of this even if it impacts their electability.

Too often our leaders are afraid to rock the boat. Well, the boat’s been tipped over, and we have no life preserver.

UDW members are people of every race and ethnicity, but we are a majority women of color workforce. Caregivers are devalued and underpaid, providing care for low-income seniors and people with disabilities who are also all too often overlooked and marginalized. So as people who all face discrimination, our union knows how imperative it is that we lift each other up and act in solidarity with all who are oppressed and marginalized.

But oppressed people in solidarity will not be enough. We need everyone who stands against hatred, who stands against racism and bigotry, who know and believe that Black Lives Matter and that silence is violence and complicity, to join us and have courage. Have the courage to talk to your family members and friends about George Floyd and police violence, have the courage to question the institutions that continue to oppress Black people, have the courage to acknowledge the hundreds of years of violence inflicted upon Black people by this country that we love, and find ways to address that pain and heal it.

This can be a turning point if we let it be.

Doug Moore is Executive Director of UDW/United Domestic Workers representing over 90,000 home care workers in California.

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