Statement from UAW President Rory L. Gamble on Atlanta Shootings

Detroit — On behalf of the entire UAW and all my brothers and sisters, I want to extend our heartfelt sympathies and prayers to the families of the victims of Tuesday’s horrific shootings in Atlanta and our prayers for the recovery of the young man who is currently fighting for his life in an Atlanta hospital.

As a diverse nation of many backgrounds, we have a responsibility to everyone who calls this country home and these stories of violence on our streets and in our neighborhoods, are far too common and have become far too familiar. Eight innocent people, six of them Asian women, have lost their lives in this incident. And while investigations are still ongoing, it is undeniable that racism and highly inflammatory racist rhetoric played a major role in this tragedy.

Words have power. Especially when they are coming from our elected leaders. They can heal or they can harm, and messages of hate, racism, sexism or intolerance have consequences. They can inspire people to actions. We have seen this over and over again. In the wake of yet another tragic episode of violence and the loss of innocent lives, I think we have to face the fact that public statements from our leaders that seek to denigrate and divide are potentially dangerous. Let’s just call it what it is, it is hate speech and it is not what we should be hearing from our leaders. It is incumbent upon those who we have entrusted to represent us that they come to us with messages not of hate and intolerance, but of hope and inclusion. We are one nation.

I think we also have to face the fact that mental illness may have played a role in this incident. I have addressed this many times in the past, and as a union negotiator have pushed for mental health services for our members. If people are unable to get the mental health services they so desperately need, we see increased suicides, violence, devastating substance abuse, families torn apart and sheer misery for those untreated. To be sure, it was hate speech combined with mental illness in this and so many other cases. Sadly, too often behavior like this has gone unnoticed and untreated. Statistics show that so many in need go untreated. We need more understanding and research on mental illness, financial resources and the commitment to address this issue. And in this time of an unprecedented pandemic, the need to rise to this challenge is even greater.

So, I appeal to those in power: Help us heal our nation. Speak to us of inclusion and tolerance. Seek to inspire us to embrace our neighbors and recognize that there is far more that unites us than divides us. Abandon inflammatory rhetoric that has the potential to inflame hate.

Again, our prayers go out to the families of this terrible tragedy.