This is a very exciting moment. I don't know if we have ever experienced this kind of global challenge to racism and to the consequences of slavery and colonialism.
- Angela Davis (June 2020)
In only a few short weeks, the renewed Movement for Black Lives has swept the United States and the globe. The Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies joins the millions of people outraged by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Manuel Ellis, and the many others whose deaths have gone untold. Their murders are only the latest examples of the state-sanctioned, systematic violence experienced by Black people in the United States at the hands of white supremacy.
The Black Lives Matters movement is the result of years of struggle for racial justice, within institutions and in the streets, led by Black people, particularly youth. In the wake of these uprisings, universities, unions, companies, politicians and more have been moved to make statements like this one against racism and state violence. Such statements are long overdue, but they are also wholly inadequate unless they are matched by sustained action that meets the demands and centers the voices of Black people. The University of Washington, including the Harry Bridges Center, must undertake the active work of dismantling white supremacy by radically reevaluating where our resources go and how our priorities are set.
The anti-racist practice of the ILWU, whose members founded the Harry Bridges Center, is an example of the unique contribution the labor movement can make in the fight against white supremacy. This work is not easy, and it is always ongoing. It is a struggle that must reckon with racism within labor’s ranks, particularly the violent function of police unions, and it must not reduce calls for racial justice to economic issues. Capitalism, today and throughout its history, depends on racism to function.
The struggle for racial justice is a long-term struggle, but this movement is immediate. Like Angela Davis, we are excited by this moment. Through our material support for students of color, our contributions to research on racial justice, and our work on issues in the community, we remain committed to doing everything we can to move this movement forward: on campus, in the labor movement, in Seattle, in the United States, and beyond.