It both saddened and angered us this week to hear about the shooting of a young Black man named Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This shooting was inhumane and immoral.
Jacob did not deserve to have the very people who swore to serve and protect him show a complete disregard for his life and well-being. The fact that this happens so often is another glaring example of the ways that our society’s systems are failing.
Black communities feel angry, sad, disheartened, and disappointed. We share those feelings and we stand with you.
One of the reasons for Friday’s march in Washington D.C. was to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 where he called for an end to racism. Thousands gathered in the US capital to call out the injustices that the Black community continues to experience 57 years after this historic address.
We also pay homage to Emmett Till who died on this day. He was a 14-year-old Black person, lynched in Mississippi in 1955, for being accused of flirting with a white woman in her family’s grocery store. His mother, Mamie Bradley, had an open casket to show the world Emmett’s badly disfigured body. His killers were acquitted after an all-white jury deliberated for less than an hour.
Emmett’s death and the recent deaths of so many Black people serves as a stark reminder of how racism is still alive and well in 2020.
Last month, OPSEU held a telephone town hall on anti-Black racism, to hear from Black members. We used the conversations we had that day and the weeks since to identify what our union can do to fight systemic racism.
We are in the process of developing a focused course to educate our membership so that they are prepared and equipped to identify, address and challenge anti-Black racism. We will be launching an anti-Black racism campaign, addressing the devastating effects of this discrimination and the inequitable outcomes that Black people face as a result. We are also creating a dedicated area on our website to provide education, resources, and support focusing on dismantling racism. We will use this space to communicate the union’s ongoing work on anti-Black racism in the months, years, and decades to come.
Racism has no place in our union, our workplaces, or our communities. We may not be able to undo the pain and suffering that has been inflicted as a result of systemic racism, but we can commit to use every resource we have to fight against it until there is justice and equality for everyone.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer