Dolores Huerta sees Donald Trump and the Republicans for the racists they are—and she’s not keeping quiet about it. At 87 years old, she’s been engaging in social and racial justice work since the 1950s. Huerta wants us to know that what they are doing to actively marginalize immigrants and people of color is an old trick that is about economics and racism. She also wants us to know that we can do something about it.
“This is a step up above slavery,” Huerta says, in the latest episode of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. “The Republican plan is to deport all of the people that you have here that are undocumented, and bring in folks here under foreign labor contracts.” [...]
And all the while, Huerta says, Trump and other wealthy people like him benefit more than anybody from the sweat of immigrant labor, without ever appreciating it.
“I think it’s mean. I think that he’s got this obsession, a fixation, against people of color. You know, the way that he keeps attacking Mexicans,” she says. “I’m a Mexican American. And my great-grandparents were here before his were, I’m sure. And his grandfather came from Germany.”
Huerta is encouraged by the marches and active resistance people are showing against the Trump agenda. While we know that racism never went away, it is showing up clearly and vocally in ways that were previously more subtle and difficult for some to discern. Since those days are over, she says it is good that now we know and are being forced to act in order to eliminate racism.
“We see that it’s really very visible that people who before maybe were racist but didn’t declare themselves as such now feel that they have license to do so,” Huerta says. “It’s good that the racism is so visible, because then this means that we have to do something about it.” [...]
“I think the ’60s are back,” Huerta says, not at all unhappily.
Huerta’s advice is particularly well-timed. She is a giant in the labor movement and holds a particular place of distinction in American political life. Today’s labor movement is struggling in the Trump era, with union membership declining and organized labor poised to take a hit in the Supreme Court with a potential ruling that will restrict how employees in public sector jobs can organize. But it’s also meaningful given that much of her contributions to the fight for social justice have been ignored and eclipsed by the attention given to her more famous male colleague, Cesar Chavez. In a movement that is overwhelmingly being led by women of color, it feels fitting that Huerta may finally be seen in the full light that she deserves.
A prominent female labor leader at a time when women were barely factors in the labor movement at all, she came later to the women’s rights movement (though she came to embrace it). A central enough political force that she was standing just at Bobby Kennedy’s right when he declared victory in the 1968 California primary minutes before he was assassinated, she’s become almost anonymous in the decades since. (Chavez even usually gets the credit for Si Se Puede.) [...]
Trying to recalibrate the record, she’s eagerly participated in a new movie about the history of her life, Dolores, but in promoting it, she knows that she can’t escape grappling with the present.
This moment in time requires us to be unafraid about standing up to injustice. It is a sad, unfortunate reality that Trump is the president and he intends to undo a lot of the progress of the Obama era and do real damage to people of color and vulnerable communities in this country. But we can and should act. May we all find the tenacity and courage to actively organize and fight this battle in whatever ways we can—and may we all channel our own inner Dolores.