A Teachable Moment

Your stereotypical union member doesn’t like China all that much, and I don’t blame them. And by China, I am talking about the Chinese government, that has pursued manufacturing policies that have attracted a whole lot of their manufacturing and factory jobs over the last few decades.

In the last week or so, some on the left side of the aisle have been critical of Joe Biden’s anti-Trump ad that criticizes Trump for believing the Chinese government during the early stages of this Coronavirus Pandemic, as if any criticism of China is an attack on all Asian Americans and in fact all Asians everywhere. Which is of course ridiculous, and anyone on the left who makes such a charge is not ever to be taken seriously again on any topic. The Chinese government and their policies should not be defended by anyone on the left, on the Pandemic or any other topic, of which there are many.

However, what Delaware AFL-CIO President James Maravelias posted on his Facebook profile over the past week was not your standard anti-China government memes. Instead, they were accurately classified as shockingly racist, for which he is to be condemned. Forgive me, but here are screenshots of the offending posts:

Erik Raser-Schramm, the Chairman of the Delaware Democratic Party sent around the following email to Representative District Chairs and other party officials and activists, but, as far as I can tell, has not released a public statement. Indeed, I have not seen this story in what remains of our press in Delaware. So I think the private email was meant to address the issue privately among party leaders and members, but did not publicly condemn Maravelias for what I can only imagine are political concerns. The relationship between Maravelias and the Democratic Party has been strained over the past year due to the party’s pursuit of gun safety legislation, against which Maravelias is inexplicably opposed and has treated as a union issue for reasons passing any logical understanding.

The problem with that approach is that many of the general public saw those racist memes.

Here is Raser-Schramm’s email, titled “A Teachable Moment:”

Good morning.

On Monday, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across a horrific video of a woman biting the head off a live turtle. I was disgusted, both by the visual itself and by the fact that such anti-Chinese propaganda was being shared so openly. I responded with an emoji that conveyed that disgust and then I quickly moved on. In hindsight, I wish I had engaged the friend who posted it in a more constructive dialogue.

Let me say up front, I reject racism in all forms and am particularly concerned about the increase in anti-Chinese sentiment and hate crimes that have accompanied the COVID-19 outbreak across the globe.

Let me also say that I have known the person who posted that video for two decades now, and I would be among the first in line to vouch for his commitment to diversity, inclusion and opportunity for all through his work at the AFL-CIO and the Delaware Building Trades and through what’s in his heart.

Taken together, those truths should have prompted me to engage differently. In hindsight, I wished I had shared the following with my friend, which I will now share with all of you.

Minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, we are being manipulated by forces beyond our wildest imagination – right wing bots, Russian troll farms, foreign adversaries – to advance sentiments that are damaging not just to entire races and ethnicities, but to our own way of life. And the values of diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism we all celebrate as Americans are threatened when we amplify such blatant propaganda.

If we are all left to be judged by any and all behaviors of others who may look like us or share our language, where does that leave anyone? What claim do any of us have to a moral or ethical high ground?

For decades, labor leaders, elected officials and other Americans have urged their neighbors to buy American and reject Chinese goods. And for decades, those were well-intentioned calls to bolster the middle class, protect American jobs ,and lift our manufacturing sector to new heights. That may still be the motive for many, but leaders in our Party have a responsibility to understand that these memes and messages are being newly amplified by sinister, right wing forces that don’t care about protecting American jobs, and only care about sowing seeds of discord and division as America battles an existential crisis. We should not be pawns in that scheme.

As an American, I believe it is my responsibility to reject racism at every turn. As the Chairman of the Delaware Democratic Party, I believe I also have a responsibility to do my part to elevate our public discourse. Those are not mutually exclusive. So in addition to urging more thoughtful consideration of what narratives we are advancing via social media, I am also urging all of us, activists, elected officials, and Party leaders alike, to try to find ways to educate and enlighten without demonizing. Let’s move forward, together.

Sincerely, Erik.

This was a good email. The only way it could be better is if it were a public press release that named James Maravelias specifically. As you can see, Maravelias is being given the benefit of the doubt, so he must show he is deserving of that and publicly apologize for the racist memes he posted and delete them if they still remain on his Facebook page. If he chooses not to publicly apologize, then Democratic party officials should demand his resignation as President of the Union.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

16 comments on “A Teachable Moment

  1. mediawatch

    Sorry, but I don’t believe it’s the role of the Democratic Party to police the behavior of union leaders. That’s the job of the union’s members and its board of directors. Sadly, I don’t think they’ll do anything because I would not be surprised if many members of Mr. Maravelias’s union share and endorse these racist views.
    With regard to the party, Mr. Raser-Schramm should make clear that this sort of racism has no place within the party and advise Mr. Maravelias that he will not be welcome to participate in any party activities until he makes a public apology and removes these hateful posts from his social media accounts.
    I know, I know, publicly shaming a union leader might have political repercussions and cost the party some union support. but sometimes you’ve got to make a strong stand for your principles.

    • cassandram

      Mr. Raser-Schramm did not name Mr. Maravelias, DD did. The whole point of this email is to tell Democratic leaders that this is a time when we don’t abandon our values.

      • mediawatch

        Cassandra, I took care to avoid saying that Raser-Schramm called out Marvelias. But I did say he should make it perfectly clear to Maravelias that, until he apologizes, he is not welcome at party activities. I do believe that message should be delivered directly, and publicly. My disagreement here is with DD’s suggestion that the party involve itself in the union’s affairs.

        • cassandram

          Fair enough, but Erik’s point was on the Teachable Moment (and a reminder of values) for the rest of DelDems leadership. And as a matter of Rules, Dems don’t have real process to exclude Dems from Dem activities where all Dems are welcome.

          • What does this mean?: “And as a matter of Rules, Dems don’t have real process to exclude Dems from Dem activities where all Dems are welcome.”

            • cassandram

              What don’t you understand? Democrats do not have rules that let them single out other Democrats to not join in events that are open to all Democrats.

  2. Unblock me Erik

    Here’s Progressive Democrats for Delaware’s statement on the incident:

    • Unblock me Erik

      A Statement from the Progressive Democrats for Delaware Steering Committee Opposing Bigotry within the Democratic Party

      Hate crimes against Asian-Americans have spiked during the coronavirus outbreak, and unfortunately Donald Trump isn’t the only one to blame. As Democrats, it is our responsibility to speak up whenever we see racism and xenophobia, even if it comes from members and leaders of our own party. This is why it is disheartening that in 2020 we feel the need to call upon our fellow Democrats to denounce racism, xenophobia, and other forms of bigotry coming from our side of the political spectrum.

      We were dismayed this week to see James Maravelias, the president of the Delaware AFL-CIO and a fellow Democrat, post a video of an Asian woman eating snapper soup with the caption, “China already working on COVID-20.” We were even more disappointed to see his anti-Chinese statements continue when fellow union members and union organizers—including one of our steering committee members—argued that his post was xenophobic and racist. This is not acceptable.

      To make matters worse, after initially participating in the comment thread of said post with a vague emoji that didn’t specify whether his disgust was with the video or the meaning behind it, the Chairman of the Delaware Democratic Party issued a statement entitled “A Teachable Moment.” In this statement he called the video “horrific” and falsely claimed that it depicted a woman “biting the head off of a live turtle.” He then went on to praise the man who posted the video for his “commitment to diversity, inclusion, and opportunity for all through his work at the AFL-CIO and Delaware Building Trades and through what’s in his heart.” We wish the Chairman of the Delaware Democratic Party would have treated the union organizer who questioned his emoji response with the same compassion and empathy he showed the union president, who has a decade-long history of equally hateful public posts on his personal Facebook page.

      As progressives, we believe that a strong labor movement is necessary for a better, more just society. That is why we oppose the neoliberal policies that have reduced union density and decimated working class communities, and why we fight for legislation like card check that will make it easier for workers to form unions. But we can not have a strong labor movement if we alienate many of the workers that are going to be needed to rebuild it. Whether it’s the United Farm Workers, the United Auto Workers, United Students Against Sweatshops, or the Delaware Longshoremen, the American labor movement teaches us that an injury to one is an injury to all, and that we are always stronger together.

      Likewise, if Democrats expect to defeat Trump and the GOP in November, we have to confront bigotry in all forms within our party. Focusing exclusively on Republicans’ transgressions and bigotry while refusing to acknowledge our own does a grave disservice to the Democratic Party’s diverse membership and alienates the very people we claim to represent. Engaging in or permitting attacks on each other based on race, nationality, or culture only serves to weaken our party and our movement.

  3. That turtle was cooked to perfection

    I like how Erik watched a video of an Asian woman eating snapper soup and decided to send out an email to the party claiming that she was biting the head off a live turtle. Way to try to denounce xenophobia & only make it worse.

  4. Ehh cmon. If we are judging people by memes there is literally no one clean in politics. Everyone has dirt, everyone. Even you pc police

  5. As part of AFL-CIO and President of a Local Union I personnaly condem the comments and in the innuedos that Mr. Maravelias portrays. This is not what we teach our membership and racism is something we always oppose. A public apology is in order plain and simple.

  6. The real questions is: why did Erik reply to the post with the eggplant emoji?

  7. Maravellias apologized yesterday in case you missed it.

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