What The Attack On NYC’s African Burial Ground Says About The Elite’s Attempts To Divide Workers
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What The Attack On NYC’s African Burial Ground Says About The Elite’s Attempts To Divide Workers

November 13, 2018

By Joe Maniscalco

Members of the NYC Council and NYS Legislature gather outside the African Burial Ground National Monument at 290 Broadway.

New York, NY – If the fetid tide of white supremacy and hatred Donald Trump and his minions tried riding into the midterm elections wasn’t already familiar to trade unionists, it should be — it’s part of a very old playbook aimed at undermining worker power.

“All you have to do is look at who’s in Washington [D.C] — it’s a continuous playbook,” SEIU 32BJ’s Walter Cooper told LaborPress in front of the African Burial Ground National Monument on Monday, November 5.

Cooper joined a somber phalanx of city and state officials assembled at the memorial to denounce recent vandalism at the venerated site — final resting place for thousands of colonial-era men and women of color — many of them held as slaves during their lifetime.

The vandalism perpetrated at the African Burial Ground National Monument earlier this month — now removed — appeared as a scrawled invective to “Kill N – – – – – s” on a plaque recalling the solemn memorial’s historical significance to all Americans.

As astute historians have already noted — white supremacy and racism have, indeed, for a very long time, been the elite’s tools of choice to divide and diminish the power of America’s working class. Billionaire Donald Trump and his corporate-dominated administration have only sought to ratchet up the hate and ensuing confusion even further.

Scaffolding wraps around the African Burial Ground National Monument at 290 Broadway.

“We are clear about what is happening in this country right now,” Council Member Jumaane Williams told LaborPress. “We’ve been talking about these issues before two years ago [when Trump was elected], because we knew they were there. Right now, we have a space where people don’t even feel ashamed to espouse their belief in nationalism; their belief in white supremacy.That is a dangerous thing — particularly, when you add that to the access to guns.”

A report issued in May from the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that since Trump took office, hate crimes have risen 12.5-percent in 10 of the country’s biggest cities.

As a community, do they want to take us back to slavery? Do they want to take us back to a point where there where Japanese interment? How far exactly is it that you want to take us back? — NYS Assembly Member Latrice Walker 

Just a few weeks ago, a 51-year-old white gunman shot and killed Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones outside a Kroger supermarket near Louisville, Kentucky, after failing to gain entry into a nearby African-American church holding Bible study. Federal investigators have yet to designate that deadly shooting as a hate crime. 

Days later, another white gunman, this one 46-years-old, entered the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, slaughtering 11 people and injuring six more during Sabath services. 

On October 27,  a 56-year-old Trump-loving supporter from Florida, was arrested after allegedly sending mail bombs to as many as 14 different opponents of the president.

On November 5, NYS Assembly Member Latrice Walker [D-District 55], decried Trump’s barely-veiled and regressive rhetoric to “Make America Great Again.”

“As a community, do they want to take us back to slavery? Do they want to take us back to a point where there where Japanese interment? How far exactly is it that you want to take us back?” the Brooklyn legislator said. 

Council Member Williams acknowledged the role white supremacy and racism have historically played in shaping the nation, but also struck a defiant tone. 

This plaque in front of NYC’s African Burial Ground has been cleaned after being defaced with racist graffiti.

“That has always been a part of this country,” Council Member Williams said. “I believe this country is founded on it — but the better part of this country has always existed, as well. Like Dr. King’s famous words: be true to what you said on paper — we want to make sure that we continue to push back. There’s always been that [racist] sentiment — and there have always been those of us who have done their best to make sure we live up to the ideals that this country [espouses].”

Cooper said that organized labor must confront white supremacy and racism with “unity and solidarity.”

“It goes back to the 1960s with the March on Washington…Civil Rights, [organized] labor was a part of all that — and it’s a part of the struggle now.”

This week, Police have reportedly identified a suspect believed to be responsible for desecrating the African Burial Ground National Monument earlier this month.

November 13, 2018

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