Today is the first time that “Juneteenth” has been recognized as a federal holiday. Juneteenth is an annual holiday observing the end of slavery in the U.S. and marks the day (June 19, 1865) when news of emancipation reached people in the deepest parts of the former Confederacy in Galveston, Texas (Google), a full two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. This day has been celebrated in many communities around the country for 156 years, but many of us were unaware because it was not taught in all communities. The bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday had overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. As enlightening and wonderful as this is and what an accomplishment this is for those who fought years for it, it is somewhat symbolic and only a first step.
Other topics related to this issue in the news lately include Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project. Critical race theory is an intellectual movement and a framework of legal analysis according to which (1) race is a culturally invented category used to oppress people of colour and (2) the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, political, and economic inequalities between white and nonwhite people (Google). Critical race theory developed in the 1970s as an effort by activists and legal scholars to understand why the U.S. civil rights movement had lost momentum and was in danger of being reversed. Their approach emphasized general and systemic features of the legal system that served to perpetuate race-based oppression and white privilege (Google). The 1619 Project, among other topics, shows that people of African descent have been part of the development of America since the beginning. In fact, historians report that people of African descent were here as early as 1493.
The point is that America has been multicultural and multiracial since the beginning. Tragically, ethnocentrism and narrow knowledge caused European Caucasians to see others as inferior deserving a lesser status, creating the space for America’s original sin, slavery! Overtime, minds and attitudes were changed and after more than 240 years, slaves were freed, sadly, it took nearly another 100 years to pass the Civil Rights Act and to end segregation.
However, the country still remains un-healed and has taken several steps backward. Since the election of our first black President, Barack Obama, a backlash of white supremacy and white nationalism has reared its ugly head and was further fueled by the Trump presidency. In order to heal, we must hear the truth. Ignoring the truth will not make our sickness go away.
In fact, steps four through eight in Alcoholic Anonymous’ 12 steps to Recovery, address what we need to heal our country. Fourth, we must make a moral inventory. Fifth, we must admit to God, ourselves and at least one other person the nature of our wrongs. Sixth, we must be ready to have God remove our defects of character. Seventh, we must ask God to remove our shortcomings. Eighth, we must list all persons we’ve harmed and make amends to all.
Therefore, we must recognize that racism exists in our country, we must admit that our behaviors and laws perpetuate racism, we must look at our own character and shortcomings that allow racism to continue, and we must make amends to all we’ve harmed by learning the truth and supporting civil and human rights for all Americans.
We can do this by studying Critical Race Theory, The 1619 Project, and by celebrating Juneteenth! The only path to healing for all is learning the truth! Happy Juneteenth!