Hmm, this is the kind of thing that brightens up a pretty bleak day. As Charles notes, this is “Rich Trumka, Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO and former President of the United Mine Workers, addressing,” in the context of Obama’s candidacy, “the issue of racism among working class people”. Charles also calls this is a “cri de coeur”. Which, in fairness, I suppose it is. But still, Trumka’s a mine worker, so let’s leave the French phrases to fancy folks like Bérubé, shall we?

Anyway, it’s a moving speech, particularly if you know anything about American labor history. Long story both short and poorly told (because that’s all I have time for right now): historically, many organized white laborers weren’t thrilled about integrating their workplaces. There were lots of reasons for this: bosses’ use of African-American strikebreakers, among other divide-and-conquer tactics; shop floor affiliations rooted in ethnic and linguistic differences; and, for lack of a better shorthand, racism. Over time, white and black workers often, though not always, grew to distrust each other. And that distrust sometimes metastasized into overweening racial solidarity that trumped class loyalties.* Trumka, to his credit, isn’t ducking this history; he’s confronting it head on. Like I said, this seems like progress. Also, in a recent contest of physical strength, I totally pwned Trumka.

* Really, this is very crappy potted history. Still, as a rough sketch of the intersection of race and labor in American history, this is the best I can do in a pinch. It’s no “cri de coeur”, I know. But commenters, as you tell me I’m an idiot add nuance, remember what I did to Trumka the last time he and I tangled.

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