We Will Not Let Hate Win

AFSCME Council 5 executive director Eliot Seide
AFSCME Council 5 executive director Eliot Seide

I watched with disgust as hatred reared its ugly head last month during a mosque bombing in Bloomington and a deadly rally in Charlottesville.

My friend Asad Aliweyd prays at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center. His sacred place of worship was destroyed by an explosive device that broke a window and ignited the imam’s office. Fortunately, no one was injured by this act of terrorism. The attack wasn’t an isolated event; it was one of 14 hate crimes against our Muslim neighbors in Minnesota this year.         

Then Charlottesville happened. Neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Ku Klux Klansmen were so emboldened that they marched with torches and without hoods. Their violence was meant to instill fear in the hearts of people like us who are fighting for a more just and inclusive America. The tragic death of Heather Heyer and the injuries suffered by counter-protestors and first responders are a call to action for all of us.  

These tragic events are not just a sobering reminder of racism and anti-Semitism running through the veins of America. They’re a call to stand up to the forces of hate that try to divide working people.

I am Jewish. My tribe knows the cost of silence. Six million of us were murdered during the Holocaust. During that time only one of every four Germans supported Hitler; most of the others were silent. My uncles Harry and Arthur survived an extermination camp in Poland. They would tell you that we must stand against anti-Semitism and racism or we will be condemned to repeat history.      

Sieg heils and chants of white supremacy are threats against our communities, our union, and our way of life. Running people over for saying that black lives matter is murder. And the president of the United States should not equivocate. He should denounce Nazis, white nationalists and the Ku Klux Klan in the most forceful and unambiguous terms. 

There is good news. In Minnesota and all over the country people are fighting hate and standing up to promote tolerance and inclusion. Hate is flaring up and good people are rising up against it — in greater numbers and with stronger voices.

Labor must fight white supremacy just like we fight bad trade deals. The systems our labor movement rallies against – Wall Street, unfair trade, the insurance industry – are the same systems that hold down working people, communities of color and immigrants.

This is our fight!  If we are silent at a moment like this, then the neo-Nazis and the Klan win.  Never forget that when they come for our neighbors, they are coming for us. Silence is complicity with their violence.

AFSCME draws strength from our diversity. We live and work together. We respect and support one another. We succeed together and we will not let hate divide us.

Let’s make sure our love is stronger than their hate.

In solidarity,

Eliot Seide

Learn more from the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide"

Poem by Rabbi Michael Adam Latz shared at the Charlottesville Solidarity Vigil in Minneapolis on August 13, 2017:

First they came for Transpeople and I spoke up –

Because God does NOT make mistakes!

They came for the African Americans and I spoke up –

Because I am my sisters’ and my brothers’ keeper.

And then they came for women and I spoke up –

Because women hold up half the sky.

And then they came for the immigrants and I spoke up –

Because I remember the ideals of our democracy.

And then they came for the Muslims and I spoke up –

Because they are my cousins and we are one human family.

And then they came for Native Americans and Mother Earth and I spoke up –

Because the blood-soaked land cries and the mountains weep.

They keep coming.

We keep rising up.

Because we Jews know the cost of silence.

We remember where we come from.

And we will link arms, because when you come for our neighbors, you come for us –

And THAT just won’t stand.