It was on this day in 1865 that Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that all slaves were free.
That was two months AFTER the end of the Civil War and TWO YEARS after the Emancipation Proclamation. To say that change comes slowly for African Americans is more than just an understatement.
Then again, Texas has always been a century or two behind.
The 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, was ratified in December of 1865. Three years later, the 14th Amendment granted citizenship and equal protection of the laws to former slaves.
In 1870, the 15th Amendment guaranteed African American men the right to vote. Women of all colors had to wait another 49 years to vote. As it turns out, White men don’t like sharing.
Progress for both women and Blacks has been slow and grinding, but expansion of rights and freedoms has always marked the upward trajectory of mankind.
It took another 100 years though, until Congress actually did something to protect Black Americans, who were often kept from voting by any means possible, from poll taxes to written exams and pure intimidation.
It was the process of intimidating Black voters through terror campaigns; torture, fire bombings and lynchings that gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK, as in TucKKKer Carlson).
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 made most forms of voter suppression illegal, but even that protection was gutted in 2013 by the Right wing of the Supreme Court under the cover of very contrived jurisdictional issues and the improbable argument that racism in America was over.
Which brings us to Juneteenth 2022.
Last year, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making it a federal holiday. As you might guess, some states have been more than just a little reluctant to join the celebration.
Since that time, most states run by Republican legislatures have passed bills restricting voting rights and prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory, a term not one of them could define.
Critical race theory looks at the way our attitudes towards Black people are woven into the very fabric of Americana, from our workplace to health care, education and our judicial system. It’s an attitude that goes back to the arrival of slaves in the Virginia Territory in 1619.
Like anti-Semitism, it’s an attitude ingrained in a culture feeling both fear of and superiority to the others.
In December of 1960, 6-year old Ruby Bridges began first grade at all-White William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. Escorted by federal marshals, she faced a daily barrage of rocks, taunts and threats.
Ruby Bridges didn’t just survive, she thrived. She went on to become a civil rights activist and won a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.
The people pushing back against CRT have no idea what it means. They just don’t want their children to know that their mothers and grandmothers were the ones throwing rocks at Ruby Bridges.
If Ruby Bridges could endure all that and go on to success, those little White snowflakes can certainly survive learning the history of our nation.
In 2019, New York Times Magazine commemorated the 400-year anniversary of the arrival of the first slaves in the American colonies with a study of slavery in America called the 1619 project.
It seemed like a reasonable endeavor, except to the anti-science, anti-history, anti-education, anti-books, anti-everything crowd.
The pushback was immediate and everyone with a Confederate flag on his truck was suddenly wearing a 1776 hat, much the same way they rebuffed the Black Lives Matter movement with the All Lives Matter euphemism.
We can have statues of Robert E. Lee in all our public spaces, but when it comes to America’s Indigenous People and the Black men, women and children that were brought here in chains and sold like bales of cotton, we refuse to pull back the curtain.
All this begs the question; What, exactly are we celebrating on June 19th?
Juneteenth is a reminder that White America has to be dragged kicking and screaming into any recognition of Black America’s right to exist, to enjoy the rights and freedoms taken for granted by the rest of us.
Juneteenth is a symbol of White America’s resistance to sharing this land that they claim is God’s gift to us all. The fact that it is now a federal holiday offers small comfort amidst a raging blaze of pushback.
Anyway, enjoy the day. Let’s see if we can make it to July 4th.
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