Trumka tackles racism head on

TRUMKA TACKLES RACISM HEAD ON…. Rich Trumka of the AFL-CIO, one of the nation’s leading figures in the union movement, has been talking to quite a few people, for quite a while, about combating racism that undermines support for Barack Obama. He gave a powerful speech to union officials at the Democratic convention, for example, urging leaders not to pretend the problem doesn’t exist, but rather, to confront it head on.

His speech to the United Steelworkers was even more impressive.

I don’t have anything especially insightful to add, but I hope readers will take a few minutes to watch the clip. Kathy G., who posted the video yesterday, explained, “He pulls off something very tricky here: he names the racist opposition to Obama for what it is, but not in an accusatory, guilt-mongering way. I think it’s crucial that Obama supporters speak openly about the racism that Obama faces, in such a way that causes the people who have racist thoughts about him feel at least a wee bit guilty about it. Yet at the same time, we don’t want to get all superior and self-righteous about it, because that’s a turn-off.”

Kathy added, “I think Trumka strikes just the right balance in this speech. He calls out the racism for what it is, but doesn’t say that those who harbor racist feelings are necessarily bad people. He frames racism as an evil, but also as something that can be overcome. In short, he appeals to folks’ better angels, which I think is a much more effective way to go than castigating them would be.”

The more Trumka whips the vote in union halls nationwide, the better off the Democratic ticket will be.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.