Black Lives Matter has become a term meant to "trend" on social media. It is commonly associated with the death of Black males by law enforcement, catalyzed in the response to the death of Michael Brown but what happens when it is no longer trendy? What happens when the sensationalism of Black deaths fade away into the headlines? Black Lives Matter because there is still a struggle, there is still discrimination and there is still disparity. CBTU was founded on the voices of Black Workers. It is on the shoulders of those giants that we as an organization affirm Black Lives Matter. Additionally, Black Lives Matter to Labor.
For decades we have watched the number of union members steadily decrease while the wage gap between the wealthiest and poorest Americans has violently expanded. What was once a gap evolved into a chasm is now a canyon of disparity with the wealthiest 1% owning almost half the worlds' wealth. This wage discrepancy is most evident in the Black community, where unemployment, incarceration, and inadequate education are at national highs. Yet in the face of this oppression we find Black workers to be the majority of union membership and the most willing to join and form a union if given an opportunity. With persecution we find resistance and Black workers are resisting wage discrimination by joining and forming Labor Unions.
Left out of the larger conversation are Black women. Not only do Black women face the horrid realities of sexual assault, wage discrimination and a constant battle over ownership of their body, but according to a recent study Black girls face harsher school discipline than their white peers. Excessive punitive actions were taken against Black girls at an alarmingly higher rate than their peers. Compounded with an already widening gap of education inequality for low income areas, Black girls are facing oppressive hurdles earlier in life. The report can be found at the African American Policy Forum.
The fate of Black workers is the fate of American workers. When employers find that they can exploit one class of worker, they soon seek to exploit all workers. When Americans accept disproportionately high levels of unemployment amongst Blacks, they are silently accepting high levels of unemployment for all workers. When Americans accept poor healthcare and educational opportunities for communities of color, their acceptance is co-signing a race to the bottom. Black workers are the canaries in the mines of working people. When we get injured, fall ill, or die due to conditions, it is but a harbinger of how the rest of the country will suffer.
Black Lives Matter is a simple phrase that bears the burden of carrying the voice of millions of disenfranchised Blacks in America. Black Lives Matter because it is not enough just to exist. Rather it is the conditions and environment of these Black Lives that is at stake. It is not enough to scrape by and survive. It is not acceptable to try and make a dollar out of fifteen cents. Black Lives Matter beyond just living, it matters in how we live, the way we live, and the way this society has attempted to prevent us from living. Black Lives Matter because workers matter, because families matter, because the American Dream matters. Black Lives Matter. And to CBTU, Black Lives Matter to Labor.
This post is part of the "Black Future Month" series produced by The Huffington Post and Black Lives Matter for Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will look at one of 28 different cultural and political issues affecting Black lives, from education to criminal-justice reform. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #BlackFutureMonth -- and to see all the posts as part of our Black History Month coverage, read here.