There’s no doubt that African American history here in the United States is rich. From Black Patriots in the Revolutionary War, to Lewis Howard Latimer – the real inventor of the light bulb, to Colin Kaepernick standing up to the NFL, we have much to celebrate and many to honor.
Whether we choose to recognize it or not, history shows us that many of the battles Black people fought to maintain our own human dignity were won under inhuman systems of labor – literally on the split-open backs of Black men, women, and children.
These castigating systems depended on our silence. They sanctioned brutality, maintained legal racism, and bred damaging economic disparities. These systems bled into the fabric of American culture and continue to stain our 21st-century workplaces. Quite frankly, there’s nothing new about historical or current attempts, collective or independent, to silence Black workers and organizations determined to end racialized terror and bridge gaps in the workplace.
Still, in this era of breaking silence and speaking truth to power, it’s critical that Black workers collectively challenge racism in the workplace and call out wealthy corporations, business leaders and public officials, and plain old White supremacists trying to muzzle our voices. Intentional or not, they create barriers to prosperity for Black workers and our families. When Black workers make our voices heard or call out the obstacles in the workplace, we lift standards of accountability for everyone.
One battle is against corporate censorship. Recently, nine Black workers from an Ohio autoplant filed a lawsuit against General Motors for several racist incidents that included hanging nooses and ‘whites only’ bathroom signs.