Today is Juneteenth. It is the day which in 1865 in the state of Texas that human beings, who prior to the US Civil War were kept in bondage against their will by other human beings, learned that the Union beat the Confederates States of America. This message, in effect, meant that an entire group of people whose ancestors were brought to this land 300 years prior against their collective will were made free citizens of the United States.
Yes, just a mere 150 years ago, the country founded on the proposition that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” in 1776, finally realized that credo and freed these human beings from a bondage. For nearly 100 years later, however, these same descendants were forced by law to drink from a different water fountain than their former owners, forced to eat at different restaurants, attend different schools, sit on the back of the public transportation. And if these people, who were promised the God given right of freedom less than 100 years prior, should break any of those segregation laws, they were subject to jail at minimum or even death. (Un-fun fact: 3,400 blacks were lynched in the US from 1882 to 1968).
This day, June 19th, has become a day of celebration in the past. However, this year, it will be day of mourning and reflection as a domestic terrorist took it upon himself to take the lives of 9 humans who happened to be the descendants of a formally enslaved people 2 days prior. People who were living and breathing. People who had families and friends. People who were contributing to society, paying taxes, serving the community, living lives. These were living and breathing, flesh and blood people shot down and killed because they had the fortune to be a different skin color than a monster. These people who were slaughtered like cattle, were holding a bible study in a church. Not just any church, but one historically significant. One that was burnt down because it was founded by slaves. One that helped usher in a civil rights movement that was instrumental in ending those segregation laws that prevailed in the years following Juneteenth, 1965. These were people that came to a bible study to learn the words of solace and peace. People who met downstairs from this church’s sanctuary, a place of safety and refuge. The sanctuary was where a monster entered and was welcomed into an unknowing bible study group that he would knowingly gun down saying that “he had to do it.” His rationale? The group of descendants of the formally enslaved were “raping our women” and “taking over our country.”
It is a hard pill to swallow, (for some) but there is a group of dangerous people out there that think they have the right to kill black people because “blacks” are taking over this “white” country. Don’t think the location and timing of this heinous act was inconsequential to the killer. It was not. And let us not pretend that this act is a complete surprise because if we as a country really sit back and examine in those dark places, we knew it was only a matter of time that something like this was going to happen AGAIN. This has happened at least 14 times since 2009. We knew it because these acts have been propagated by politicians, commentators, bloggers and even a “news” outlet for years.
These are people that claim to believe in the constitution of this land, but they really don’t. They only like the bits that appeal to them. They claim to be patriots but they are not, in fact they are at the heart of what is tearing this country apart.
These are commentators and news networks that hide behind platitudes and make it up as they go along. These are people so fixated on their narrow view of the world that they tear down those who have succeeded by the rules they have set up because of their color. These are people that talk about personal responsibility and pulling ones self up by their boot straps, but ridicule those who actually do it. They go as far as doubting the citizenship of someone who did it by their rules all the way to the highest office in the world.
These are people that discuss the sanctity of life, but are more concerned about a burning business than they are about the actual lives that were erased by the unnecessary police violence which lead to that burning building. They talk about the importance of the children, but “slut shame” them when they are attacked and assaulted by a police officer mad with power.
How is it in that we allow a sitting governor who speaks of succeeding from the union a mere 160 years after this country was torn asunder by such talk a keep his office? How do we allow this same person run for president in the very country he wanted to leave? How does the governor, whose state the Charleston tragedy took place in and admittedly was sincerely emotional over the violence, fight to keep the Confederate flag up at the state house. That flag is a symbol of treason and oppression and is the epitome of Anti-Americanism and yet it is acceptable to these same people who claim to want to “take their country back.”
We have to stop pretending that people are acceptable because they claim to love America. We have to stop acting like it is OK to politically hurt other people in the name of morals or religion. We have to stop supporting people because they claim to embrace the same religious philosophy that we do. We have to start facing the facts that we have not lived up to the founding fathers aspirations, not because it is not possible, but because of ourselves. We have become our worst enemies because we don't have the courage to even sit down and discuss the mistakes of the past without hostility and animus. We have become a country in which empathy and compromise are considered weak, and not the noble solution that they should be.
We have to be able to speak truth to power constructively and not in the destructive ways that have been set by modern media. We have to reject the small narrow view of America and embrace the large panorama. We have to be able to speak hard truths to one another and not worry that is does not fit a “red’ or “blue” narrative. We have to start to shut out these talking heads and let level heads prevail. We have to stop embracing those who talk about “taking our country back” and realize it hasn’t gone anywhere. Our country, like anything that lives and breathes, changes. We need to be the change for good we wish to see in the world and tell those who can’t grasp that the country has gone nowhere… to go somewhere else.