Terry Lee

Issued November 24, 2021

SEIU’s Henry: True Justice for Ahmaud Arbery Looks Like Safety for All in Our Communities

Washington DC — Service Employees International Union (SEIU) International President Mary Kay Henry issued the following statement after Travis and Greg McMichael, and William Bryan were convicted of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man killed while jogging in Brunswick, Georgia. 

“True justice for Ahmaud Arbery would be the creation of thriving communities where Black people experience safety and protection at all times. Sadly, if Ahmaud Arbery were white, he would likely still be alive today. We mourn the loss of a vibrant young man killed by white vigilantes who falsely assumed he was a criminal because of the color of his skin.

“We recognize that white vigilantes have used violence for centuries to police and regulate the mobility of people of color in our nation. Lynching, murder, and other acts of terrorism were historically used to bar Black entry to white spaces, be it white neighborhoods, white schools, white lunch counters or white work sites. Racism, operationalized in our legal system, has affirmed and codified the right of white people to act in such heinous ways in Black codes and vagrancy laws.

“While we applaud the conviction of Arbery’s killers for murder, we know that systemic change is still needed to address the ways in which white vigilantes armed with guns and racial stereotypes endanger the safety of people of color and allies who stand in solidarity, such as Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber in Kenosha.

“Certain politicians — and the white nationalist hate groups who support them — have attempted to portray Arbery as the villain based on racialized stereotypes of Black criminality. They want to portray themselves as the saviors of white working class communities while teaching us to fear one another. All the while championing the laws that make it hard for workers to unite and bargain for a better life, and supporting employer efforts to stop workers from unionizing.

“They do this to maintain their own social, political and economic power. They know that if communities across race and space unite to secure the resources they need to thrive -- health care, good schools and good jobs -- they will lose the ability to implement policies that enrich themselves at the cost of all working class communities. But we won’t fall for their trap. We know that anti-labor laws that make it harder for workers to join a union and organize for better wages and conditions have their roots in efforts to stop Black and white workers from uniting in unions in the South. 

“We stand with SEIU members in Georgia, faith leaders, and our community allies who have worked hard to shed light on the life of Ahmaud Arbery and reimagine a Brunswick where protection and safety are extended to all people -- no exceptions. We are committed to building cross-racial solidarity among working people for the power to win unions for all and an inclusive, multiracial democracy where all of us can make our voices heard.