Happy Juneteenth, America’s twelfth and newest federal holiday.
Celebrating the date on which Black slaves in Galveston, Texas were set free two and half years AFTER the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation has its own special irony, not the least of which is that it comes 156 years after the fact, but that is where we are in 21st Century America.
The face of corporate America, including the TV shows they sponsor is changing. Shows are more Blackish and commercials feature a good representation of Black and mixed race couples and families.
People of color comprise much greater segments of the workforces of many of America’s retail chains and tech giants.
All of that is good, but it mostly exists for the benefit of the corporations themselves, reaching out to an increasingly diverse population of consumers.
Just as the stock market does not reflect our economy as a whole, those changes do not reflect the state of being Black in America.
In a recent editorial at the end of his New Rules segment, Bill Maher declared that racism did not exist in his house. He didn’t specify if he was referring to his condo in a secluded community on Catalina Island or his multi-parcel estate in Beverly Hills, but let’s assume there is no racism in either of those places.
Maher’s focal point seemed to be that it’s better to be Black now than it was before the Civil War, when slave owners could rape young girls and sell them to their neighbors and beat, maim or kill Black men for any reason or no reason at all.
Not an overwhelming example of progress.
Maher trotted out a study that said Black people are more optimistic about the future than White people. Meanwhile, rampant and flourishing gun violence in America’s inner cities chronicles the crush of hopelessness and lack of opportunity.
Not for nothing here, but a certain Party needs to stop insisting that the ready availability and easy transportation of guns across state lines has nothing to do with gun violence.
Today is affirmation that we are making racial progress, just as we’re making progress in the fight against cancer. Cancer however, still exists.
It seems that for every step forward, we make one huge step backward. The 1965 voting rights act granted suffrage to Black Americans, but in 2013 the Supreme Court gutted that law on the absurd premise that it is no longer relevant.
Hello? Have you been to Georgia lately?
In LeBron James, Dennis Byrne and the acknowledgement of White privilege in America, I touch on the real meaning of White privilege and our inability to put ourselves into the shoes of people with whom we can’t empathize on a meaningful level.
Black people are incarcerated for the same crimes that are probationable for White people and receive longer sentences for the same crimes. Black people are also less likely to receive parole for the same crimes.
The Supreme Court just ruled that currently incarcerated prisoners can not benefit from criminal reform and reduced sentencing guidelines. Not surprisingly, those overwhelmingly affected will be Black inmates.
When someone like Kevin Hart says that White power and privilege are at an all time high, he says that as a Black man living in black skin. Even celebrities like Chris Rock admit to the fear that grips them when they spot a police cruiser in the rear view mirror.
Maher presents the murder of George Floyd as proof of our changing attitudes and values. I would argue that it does the opposite.
While Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, his fellow cops did nothing to stop him. In follow-up reports, they lied and tried to cover for Chauvin.
The look in Chauvin’s eyes as he suffocated the life out of George Floyd, staring into a cell phone camera, challenging America to stop him said, This is MY America.
A belief commonly held in many White communities, some who consider America’s Indigenous People – Native Americans – as invaders.
Even though Chauvin was tried and convicted of his crime, it is still the exception to the rules by which Chauvin lived. How many times before and after has a George Floyd lost his life to sanctioned street justice without the benefit of a video record of his death?
Sadly, Chauvin was right. This is his America and just speaking out against injustice has brought swift and violent pushback from America’s hate groups, which are now center stage and taking over our governing bodies, all the way up to the federal level.
Neither Bill Maher nor I can truly imagine the visceral fear of parents watching their children walk out the door, knowing that their lives could be extinguished for otherwise inconsequential missteps.
It’s true that most Black people are killed by other Black people, just as most White people are killed by other White people. The difference is that there is no institutional policy that White deaths at the hands of police should generally be considered justified.
Barack Obama’s presidency brought the idea of a post-racial society to the fore, but that singular event couldn’t possibly wipe out centuries of slavery, Jim Crow laws and the resurrection of Confederate icons.
Think of the cosmetic changes we see on TV as picking boogers out of a shit sandwich. In the end, you’re still eating a shit sandwich.
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