Juneteenth: A Moment to Pause and Reflect

 

Today, we celebrate Juneteenth, the commemoration of the emancipation of black slaves in the former confederacy, and the abolition of slavery in Texas. Although this day is meant to be a celebration of the progress we’ve made, it i’s also a reminder of the dark legacy of racism in the US that continues to harm us today.

Some believe that with the abolition of slavery, America atoned for its original sin.  Tragically this has not been true, since we then allowed ourselves to ignore the many decades of segregation and discrimination endured by people of color in the decades since. Whether it was the black man in South Carolina who was beaten for walking on the wrong side of the road in the 1920s or the Chinese family who was denied a mortgage in San Francisco in the 1950s, institutionalized racism has been the ugly flaw our country has carried within its consciousness from generation to generation.

We have made some important steps forward. Protest movements led by people like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez showed us that when marginalized groups defy the odds and band together, great change is possible.  We must carry that record of prophetic witness and courageous action into our own day to halt the injustices that continue:

  • Today, we are dealing with a crisis on our border where young children of color are being cruelly ripped from their families -- and then mocked by white border patrol agents.
  • Throughout the country, black families are mourning the loss of their children to gun violence and police brutality.   

  • Because of our unjust policies of mass incarceration, Black and Latino inmates account for 56% of the incarcerated population despite representing only 32% of the national population.

  • Declassified documents revealed that the FBI and local police departments have targeted and illegally surveilled Muslim communities with little probable cause aside from their religion and heritage.  

  • We have proudly fought for the freedom of oppressed peoples abroad, but have failed to dismantle the institutions at home that have perpetuated segregation and discrimination.

All public holidays ask us to remember something about our past so that we can build our common future.  On this Juneteenth, I propose that we commemorate this anniversary by collectively promising to look inwards as a nation.  Let’s pick up where people like Ella Baker left off, and promise to come together and put an end to housing discrimination, police brutality and the school to prison pipeline. Let’s call on our leaders to stand up for the values that we claim to hold close to our heart in America: freedom, tolerance and the equal right to pursue a life free of hatred and discrimination. Today, let's come together and fight back against the infectious hatred of President Trump and vow to cast an eagle eye on the abuses people of color face in our society every day. Today, let’s promise to be a better brother, sister, father or mother to each other -- and thus fulfill the promise of true emancipation that lies at the soul of our nation.

 
Alex BauschComment