To anyone who cares to listen,
On this day, 155 years ago, June 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger went to Galveston, Texas, and told slaves that the U.S. abolished slavery.
While it has yet to be recognized as a national holiday, many know today as Juneteenth or Freedom Day.
However, when slavery ended, racism and inequality continued to thrive, leading to a modern world filled with implicit bias and systemic inequalities/discrimination. The problems run so much deeper than what meets the eye. So much so that I have realized even I have a lot to learn.
I always thought thanks to my diverse group of friends, my education and my work, I was well aware of the world around me. In the wake of the inhumane death of George Floyd, people across the nation have been more open about their experiences and opinions. Whether it be black people sharing their pain, allies expressing their support or naysayers defending the current state of this country, people are revealing themselves and the truth about our society.
Seeing the world through a more transparent lens has been emotional, disappointing and eye-opening to my own level of ignorance throughout my life.
As a teenager, I had friends who I saw as popular, athletic and well-respected. From my perspective, they had high school all figured out. However, throughout the last few weeks, those same people shared hurtful stories about the racism that occurred during that time of our lives. My perception of their high school experiences was very different from their realities.
Then, I also saw people I have known my whole life – people whose kids I babysat and whose parties I have attended – challenge my posts that raise awareness about racism in this country.
I couldn’t help but think, “I actually know people like this?”
While those people frequently declared, “I am not racist.” They responded to my posts advocating for racial equality in the following ways:
“You are promoting violence!”
“Why don’t black people do what Jewish people did and stop complaining and buy their own businesses?”
“What about black people who are racists against white people?”
“Don’t worry about problems that aren’t your own. Life is hard enough.”
“All lives matter!”
Each of those statements, I wrote back with specific arguments, explaining its flawed and racist logic. However, the motive behind all of those points of view is the same. They are each an attempt to deflect the conversation away from the root of the problem, which is pervasive and systemic racism in our society.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/PNvpV_uzEJM”][vc_column_text]From the government previously redlining certain areas to prevent black people from getting bank loans to property taxes, limiting educational resources to mass incarceration and drug laws targeting black communities, racism isn’t an accident in America. It is by design.
However, schools don’t teach history that way. For example, I remember learning about the New Deal, a series of programs President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s enacted to provide relief from the Great Depression. Somehow, my history books conveniently skipped over the fact that these programs, in more ways than one, screwed black people over.
Freedom is defined in the dictionary as “The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.”
Since Freedom Day 155 years ago, the majority of black people have often been confined to specific communities and educational resources. Often, they have been limited in their opportunities to create wealth and ascend in their respective careers. Not to mention, according to the NAACP, black people are incarcerated at five times the rate of white people.
Growing up I often heard the saying, “life isn’t fair.” But what I didn’t realize then, but I see now is that I, along with other white people, have benefited from that unfairness. This reality isn’t black vs. white. It is right vs. wrong.
And the only way we can even begin to correct the inequality that is sadly a part of the foundation of this country is to acknowledge that while we may have a Freedom Day, as a country, we certainly have yet to truly honor it.
We all have a lot of work to do – myself included.