Today is Juneteenth
Today is Juneteenth – the annual and oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863, but it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that the news arrived in Galveston, Texas. That’s right: it took more than two years for the news of freedom to reach some parts of the country.
Of course, we know that President Lincoln didn’t snap his fingers and everyone was treated equally. It was decades until the United States government could no longer ignore the fight for civil rights and took real steps to end Jim Crow and segregation. And today – more than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation – African Americans still feel the weight of our country’s cruel history on their shoulders.
Yes, Juneteenth is a time for celebration. It’s a time to celebrate the steps our nation and its people have taken to push this country in a new direction. But Juneteenth is also a time to remind ourselves that while we have made progress, we haven’t made enough progress.
Violence against African Americans has not disappeared. Our black friends, family, and neighbors literally fear dying in the streets. For decades, entire legal structures have existed to prevent African American and Latino families from building economic security. These same communities are still deliberately cut out of the political process with racist voter ID laws and gerrymandering.
And right now in places like Tornillo, Texas, the federal government is still ripping apart families, holding immigrant children in cages, and treating human beings like animals.
I write this with the full knowledge that I have not personally experienced and can never truly understand the fear, oppression, and pain that confronts many black Americans every day.
But this is the reality all of us must confront, as uncomfortable and ugly as that reality may be. We can’t ignore what is happening in this country.
It comes to us once again to affirm that black lives matter, that black citizens matter, that black families matter.
Today on Juneteenth, and every day, we can – and must – do better.