AFT Resolution

OPPOSING RACISM AND BIGOTRY IN AN AGE OF TRUMPISM

WHEREAS, from its very first days, the American Federation of Teachers has consistently opposed and fought racism and bigotry in all of their manifestations, as they are entirely contrary to our foundational values of democracy and solidarity; and

WHEREAS, the AFT was the only national education organization and national union to file an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Brown v. Board of Education case; the first American Federation of Labor union to expel segregated Jim Crow locals, at the cost of a considerable loss in membership and resources; and a stalwart supporter of the civil rights movement, including playing a vital role in the organization of the Freedom Schools in Prince Edward County, Va., and the Mississippi Freedom Summer; and

WHEREAS, our foes as a union have historically been, in the words of AFT friend and ally Martin Luther King Jr., “a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth”; and

WHEREAS, during the 2016 presidential campaign and since his election, Donald Trump has engaged in explicit appeals to racism and bigotry, specifically targeting immigrants and refugees; Latinos, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and other people of color; and Muslims, Jews and members of other minority faiths; and

WHEREAS, among these appeals were:

  • The often-repeated lie that our first African-American president, Barack Obama, was not an American citizen, and the criticism of prominent African-Americans as unpatriotic, ungrateful and disrespectful;
  • Characterizations of Mexican immigrants as “criminals, drug dealers and rapists” and of Haitian immigrants as “all having AIDS”;
  • Calls for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”;
  • The reluctance to disavow the support of white supremacists such as neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke;
  • Demands for an end to immigration from “shithole countries” such as Haiti and African nations, and for more immigration from places like Norway;
  • Attacks on Puerto Ricans who criticized his administration’s completely inadequate response to Hurricane Maria, calling them “politically motivated ingrates”;
  • Mocking of Native American heritage, including calling Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” at a meeting to honor Navajo Code Talker veterans of World War II; and
  • Use of anti-Semitic caricatures and conspiracy theories;[1] and

WHEREAS, these appeals included public incitements to violence against protestors who were people of color; and

WHEREAS, these appeals to racism and bigotry are not particular to Trump alone, but have been adopted by other elected officials and public figures who have embraced his far-right populism—creating a “Trumpism” that extends beyond Trump, with racism and bigotry as a central component of its politics; and

WHEREAS, as a further consequence of the climate created by these appeals, people of color in the United States have been increasingly subjected to racist harassment for the simplest of ordinary daily activities, as seen in the public reports of such acts as calling police on children of color who are selling water and mowing lawns; and

WHEREAS, as a consequence of the climate created by these appeals, there have been increasing numbers of violent incidents of racism and bigotry, as the FBI has reported an upsurge in the numbers of hate crimes since the 2016 election, including murders, assaults, the burning of Muslim mosques and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries;[2] and

WHEREAS, in August 2017, white supremacists, neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis terrorized Charlottesville, Va., in a violent demonstration that ended with the murder of an anti-racist counter-protestor and the injury of many others, and Trump responded that “there were fine people on both sides” of the event; and

WHEREAS, in conjunction with these appeals, the Trump administration has advocated and/or enacted policies that have negatively impacted the targets of these racist appeals; these policies include:

  • The Muslim “travel ban”;
  • The building of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border;
  • The ending of protections for Dreamers who were covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals;
  • Calls for the mass deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, and the use of aggressive U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tactics that contravene due process of law;
  • Support for voter suppression measures designed to deny the franchise to people of color and poor people; and
  • The failure of the U.S. government to provide Latino and African-American citizens of the United States in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with basic necessities in the devastating wake of Hurricane Maria; and

WHEREAS, in the execution of its immigration policy, the Trump administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have separated nearly 3,000 infants and children of color from parents and families seeking to immigrate to the United States as refugees from countries in which they were not safe, and placed these children in internment camps, including inside cages of chain link fences—creating deep traumas that will impact negatively the socio-emotional and cognitive development of these children and that may stay with them for the rest of their lives, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and the American Medical Association;[3]

WHEREAS, as a consequence of these appeals, K-12 educators and higher education faculty have been confronted in our schools, colleges and universities with increasing incidents of hate speech, bullying and violence based on racism and bigotry;[4] and

WHEREAS, K-12 educators and higher education faculty have been confronted by ICE agents entering schools and campuses in search of children and youth who are suspected of being undocumented immigrants; and

WHEREAS, since the 2016 presidential campaign and election, K-12 educators and higher education faculty have faced the daily challenge of responding to the trauma and fears of children and youth who are immigrants and refugees, who are Latino, African-American, Native American, Asian-American and other people of color, and who are Muslim, Jewish or members of other minority faiths:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers affirms our steadfast opposition to racism and bigotry—opposition that has animated us throughout our history—and declares that appeals to racism and bigotry are poisonous to the democratic spirit that has inspired the best traditions of our nation and holds the best hopes for our future; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT affirms the principle of solidarity—an injury to one is an injury to all—which defines us as a union of educators, healthcare professionals, and state and local government workers, and declares that attacks on our members who are immigrants and refugees, who are Latino, African-American, Native American, Asian-American and other people of color, and who are Muslim, Jewish or members of other minority faiths, are attacks on all of us and will be treated as such; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT affirms our belief in the universality and indivisibility of the rights of American citizenship, especially the right to vote and petition the government, the right to due process of law, equality before the law, and the freedoms of conscience, expression and association, and opposes any and all attempts to diminish those rights of citizenship for immigrants and refugees, for Latinos, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and other people of color, and for Muslims, Jews and members of other minority faiths; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT affirms that all Americans, regardless of immigration status, national origin, race and faith, have the right to expect that their government will provide for the common good and general welfare in ways that fully include them, and will come to their aid in times of natural disaster and emergency; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT affirms its support for an immigration policy that is welcoming to all peoples of the world, in the spirit of the words of Emma Lazarus etched on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” To this end, the AFT affirms its support for comprehensive reform that will replace the current immigration policy and enforcement apparatuses with immigration policy and law enforcement that respects the rights and dignity of all immigrants and refugees while it secures our borders: ending the inhumane separation of immigrant infants and children of color from their parents and families and reuniting those separated, ending the placement of immigrants and refugees in internment camps, ending the Muslim travel ban, and providing guarantees of legal residency for DACA Dreamers, with a clear path to citizenship; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT affirms its core value that educators are entrusted with the care and well-being of the children and youth we educate and, therefore, are responsible for addressing, wherever possible, the negative effects of racism and bigotry on them; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT is opposed to the intrusion of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents into schools and campuses, as students need to feel safe and secure in their educational settings to learn; and

RESOLVED, that to this end, the AFT will continue the work it has been doing to counter hate, along with the National Education Association and the Teaching Tolerance project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, focusing on our common commitment to ensuring every student’s equitable access to a high-quality public education in a safe and supportive environment that fosters certain fundamental qualities, including:

  • A positive sense of a student’s own identity;
  • Empathy for others;
  • The ability to appreciate and move beyond differences;
  • Awareness of injustice;
  • Critical-thinking skills to discern fact from fiction; and
  • Skills and dispositions to take action to solve problems; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will mobilize its educational programs, such as Share My Lesson, Colorín Colorado, American Educator and the Albert Shanker Institute’s civics education work, to provide K-12 educators and higher education faculty with educational lesson plans, resources and supports that can be used to counter racism and bigotry, and to promote the objectives of our work to counter hate.


[1] David Leonhardt and Ian Prasbad Philbrick, “Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List,” New York Times, January 15, 2018; and Jennifer Rubin, “Trump Is Back to Racist Rhetoric,” Washington Post, April 5 2018.

[2] “FBI Data Shows the Number of Hate Crimes Are Rising,” National Public Radio, November 13, 2017; and “Hate Crimes in the United States Increased Last Year, the FBI Says,” Washington Post, November 13, 2017.

[3] “A Troubling Prognosis for Migrant Children in Detention: ‘The Earlier They’re Out, the Better,’” New York Times, June 18, 2018; and Ken Alltucker, “‘These Children Needed Their Mothers’: Detained Kids May Face Life of Trauma, Doctors Say,” USA Today, June 30, 2018.

[4] UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Access, Teaching and Learning in the Age of Trump: Increasing Stress and Hostility in America’s High Schools (2017); Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project, The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools (2016); and “After 2016 Election, Campus Hate Crimes Seemed to Jump. Here’s What the Data Tell Us,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 16, 2018.

 

(2018)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.