Change Must Come!

George Floyd is coming home to Houston where he grew up and where he will be laid to rest.  His horrifying death beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer has sparked protests around the world.   Our hearts are broken.

Even as George was calling out for his mother in the last minutes of life, communities were mourning the murder of Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of a former police officer in Brunswick, Georgia,  the vicious shooting of Breonna Taylor by police in Louisville, and the killing of so many more. Many of their names are familiar to us and many more remain unknown. Our hearts are broken.

We are in the middle of a pandemic that is disproportionately killing African Americans. These weeks have been a chilling affirmation that Black lives don’t matter in America when it comes to health care or when it comes to policing.  Our nation’s long and awful relationship with systemic racism must end and end now.  Frankly, it is 401 years overdue.

In 1619, the first enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia and with them came the virus of racism.  For generations, enslaved people were bought and sold in America becoming the foundation upon which our economic might and industrial power was built.  The promise of freedom and equality has never been reality for our African American sisters and brothers.   Most black and brown Americans are victims of a broken legal system, mass incarceration, and unequal access to education, health care and family sustaining jobs.   Income inequality in America is staggering and shameful.  For most of them, the American dream is a painful illusion. This history and this reality are not lost on us, and we cannot be silent.

We are the International Longshoremen’s Association.  We are proud of the thousands of African American and Latino families who have joined the middle class, sent their children to college, have family health care coverage, and retired with dignity because of good ILA contracts.  But we cannot and will not forget the millions who have been diminished, denied and destroyed by racism in America.  Collectively, as a union and as a nation, we must ensure that the American dream becomes a reality for all of us, regardless of race.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King famously observed that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  But justice is not inevitable.  If we want justice, we must fight for it!  If we want freedom, we fight for it!  If we want equality, we must fight for it!

On behalf of the members and the officers of the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast District of the International Longshoremen’s Association, our hearts go out to the family of our brother George Floyd and all those who have fallen to the virus of racism.  May God comfort them and help us to defeat racism and COVID-19 finally and once and for all.

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