PRO-Member – When Speech Incites Hate: Two UAW Members Reflect on 2016 Election

    

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Mike Huerta UAW Local 602
Mike Huerta
UAW Local 602

Donald Trump is a salesman and in 2016 he’s selling hate. He’s branded Mexicans rapists and wants all Muslim-Americans to be registered in a database. When he attacks groups, it’s easy to forget he’s attacking real people, real UAW members. Here are two UAW brothers talking about what it’s like to live in the world Trump is creating:

I’m Mike Huerta. I’m 45 years old and work at GM’s Delta Township Assembly plant in Lansing, Michigan. Been a UAW Local 602 member since 1997. I’m a first generation Mexican-American — born up the road in Saginaw. I come from a very hardworking family. At one point, my mother, who is from Mexico, had to raise seven children on her own. She picked fruit 14 hours a day with the older kids while I would sleep in the wagon as a baby. That’s how I grew up — knowing the power of hard work.

A woman made a makeshift sign and stood next to me. It read: “Border Fence Construction Crew” and pointed at me. It was like a feeding frenzy.

When I heard Trump’s comments about immigrants — especially Mexican immigrants — it struck me how profoundly isolated he is. He doesn’t get that immigrants of all nationalities have contributed so much to our great country, including his mother who emigrated from Scotland and his father’s parents who came from Germany. He even employs thousands of immigrants — some who got here on their own and others that he specifically brought in with visas that he sponsored. But singling out Mexican immigrants and suggesting that they are mostly rapists and drug dealers was ugly, inaccurate and dangerous.

I’ve had firsthand experience on that front. I protested outside of one of his rallies when he came  to Dimondale. A few of us went — it was peaceful on our end, just signs and showing our presence so he didn’t go unchallenged. It didn’t take long before Trump supporters let loose on us. I was called spic, a wetback. I was told to go back from where I came (Saginaw?). A woman made a makeshift sign and stood next to me. It read: “Border Fence Construction Crew” and pointed at me. It was like a feeding frenzy. Once one got started, others joined in. I was even spat at by someone who knew nothing about me, my history or my values. One Trump supporter had his 7-year-old son with him. He chuckled at the abuse we were getting and I asked him, “What kind of example are you setting for your son?” I’m glad I said something, because it led to a conversation which is the only antidote to this hate: We have to talk, we have to learn about each other and we have to find out what we have in common and work together toward that.

While we were outside, Trump was inside promising “a new American future.” Well, I got a taste of that future and it’s frightening. Encouraging people to turn on each other, encouraging people to blame groups for their own economic insecurity without any basis in fact. Encouraging people to spew abuse and vile comments — that shouldn’t be our future, not by a long shot.

When I got home, I felt awful. It was a horrible day. I’m a grown man who doesn’t put up with abuse, not thrown my way or at others. But I held my peace that day and didn’t take their bait. My message was to stand firm with my belief and not let them intimidate me or pull me down to their level. I’m as committed as ever to stand up for my beliefs, but I see now the danger being unleashed just in my community alone.

Moe Elhady UAW Local 3000
Moe Elhady
UAW Local 3000

My name is Moe Elhady. I’m a UAW Local 3000 member, have been a UAW member for 17 years. I work at Ford’s Flat Rock (Michigan) Assembly plant. Born in Detroit 39 years ago. I’m a father of two girls and a boy. And I’m a Muslim- American.

I have a lot of thoughts about this election and Donald Trump. It bothers me a lot to see the support he gets, especially when a lot of it is driven by fear and hate against others, including Muslims. His campaign is fueled by it: He takes people’s insecurities and misunderstandings and encourages it, feeds it.

I grew up on the east side of Detroit in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. Our Muslim family was just another house on the block — we all accepted one another and helped one another. That’s the America I know …

I think that he’s a huckster, a showman like Don King but with worse hair. He grew up in the lap of luxury in New York. He’s made millions off the Saudi Arabian government. But he saw an opportunity to stoke fear and hate and get ratings. I’m not even sure he thought he’d get this far in his candidacy, but here we are and he’s one of the choices on our ballot to lead our nation and the free world.

I grew up on the east side of Detroit in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. Our Muslim family was just another house on the block — we all accepted one another and helped one another. That’s the America I know: We’re all just people trying to do right by our families and our communities.

But hearing him talk suspiciously and hatefully about Islam and try to portray all Muslims as terrorists is both flat out wrong and dangerous. Terrorists hate America, not Muslims. But he uses his broad brush to make people fear groups, including a group that I’m proud to be part of. It’s not escaped a lot of people’s notice that the groups he’s singled out tend to be browner or blacker than others, either.

My personal experience is that for a lot of people I work with or live near. I might be the first Muslim they have ever met or gotten to know. But that’s the point — get to know me, my values, my beliefs before putting me in a bucket and dismissing me. I take my kids to the games. I want to see my neighborhood thrive. I want to build great vehicles and see my union strong. We have to be judged by the content of our character and our actions, like Dr. King said. Trump doesn’t think that way — he just lumps people into groups and doesn’t care about the consequences of what he is doing or the wake of hate he leaves behind. He can promote the birther movement for years, a movement that undercut Obama and distracted this country when we had real issues to deal with. And he thinks saying one sentence wipes the slate clean? I don’t get that.

Without question, our country is at its best when we work together. You can’t slam the door on groups of people and encourage people to hate those who come from a different culture or have a different religion from you. For those who think that will work, I think you’re in for a rude awakening because this guy doesn’t care about anyone but himself. He’ll abandon them in a heartbeat, too, and never bat an eyelash if it’s convenient to him. He has no core beliefs other than in himself. But in the meantime, he is taking our country on a ride and pitting us against one another. And the America he is creating should make all of us very nervous.


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