Covid Journal, June 19, 2020
I’m 52 and I swear I’ve never heard of Juneteenth before.
Perhaps I have Trump’s stupidity and inflammatory rally to thank for that new awareness.
Of course, I thought the Civil War ended in 1863, but even that has changed for me.
All I can suggest is that this lies at the root of my privilege and how much I have to learn about the systemic racism and one-sided education that we are all exposed to … and not.
Beyond that, I don’t know what I can contribute to the conversation about Juneteenth except to commit to offering respectful apologies and thanks, allow for other ideas and seemingly ‘unconventional’ histories to add to what I know about the many different people of the world and, of course, show love and understanding instead of being quick to label people simple because their skin is a different colour.
A good starting point for learning about Juneteenth is this site, which delves into the history, accounts and ideas that evolved from Juneteenth, the official day of Emancipation for African-Americans following the Civil War in the United States on June 19th, 1865.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or none of these versions could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question. Whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.
And if you still don’t have a sense of what African-Americans have to celebrate in the United States, consider this video which outlines some of the abhorrent racist tactics used by institutions like municipal code, Realtors Association of America and other organizations prevented non-whites from gaining a foothold in society. Some key points:
- The average black household has ONLY ONE-TENTH the wealth as whites in America
- Vagrancy laws resulted in newly freed black men being imprisoned
- Racial segregation laws (Jim Crow laws) that prevented integration
- We’re back (thanks to Trump) to people believing that Communists (aka ANTIFA) and blacks are responsible for economic instability across the continent
- Inability of blacks to buy in any neighbourhood because of Federal Housing Authority rules preventing integration
- The GI Bill which only gave loans to non-white borrowers
- The ‘War on Drugs’ was an effective war on black America, with a militarized response against African-Americans, coming from all levels of enforcement, including the legal system.
The US is teetering on a second Civil War. American legislators, admistrators, politicians and thousands of institutions across America need to revisit their policies and regulations to eliminate racial bias.
Racism in Canada & First Nations
What are we doing to address Canada’s racist past concerning First Nations people?
Are there clues in the video above that can help us better understand how poorly we’re treating First Nations in Canada? What are we doing now that’s a step in the right direction and what are the actions that have to be taken NOW?
I’m asking because I don’t know. I want to know. I want to help be a force for change, not continuing systemic racism.