Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich on Monday encouraged progressive activists to work together to fight both income inequality and the legacy of racial injustice.
In a post on Facebook, Reich addressed a confrontation Democratic candidates had with Black Lives Matter activists at Netroots Nation over the weekend, which reportedly caught both Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley off guard as they were making their campaign pitches.
"It’s impossible to overcome widening economic inequality without also dealing with the legacy of racial inequality, and impossible to overcome racial inequality without also reversing widening inequality," Reich explained. "They are not the same but they are intimately related. Racial inequalities are baked into our political and economic system."
According to Reich, income inequality was undermined by "structures of discrimination," including "[p]olice brutality against black men and women, mass incarceration disproportionately of blacks and Latinos, housing discrimination that has resulted in racial apartheid across the nation, and voter suppression in the forms of gerrymandered districts, voter identification requirements, purges of names from voter registration lists, and understaffed voting stations in black neighborhoods."
"Black lives matter," he wrote.
Reich warned that allowing divisions in the progressive movement would be playing into the Republican strategy of "divide-and-conquer."
"[I]t would be a terrible mistake for the progressive movement to split into a 'Black lives matter' movement and an 'economic justice' movement," Reich added. "This would only play into the hands of the right. For decades Republicans have exploited the economic frustrations of the white working and middle class to drive a wedge between races, channeling those frustrations into bigotry and resentment."
"They want to prevent the majority of Americans – poor, working class, and middle-class, blacks, Latinos, and whites -- from uniting in common cause against the moneyed interests. We must not let them."