Perspective. The most valuable thing I learned growing up was to try to see things from the perspective of others. It’s the basis of sharing and empathy and kindness. It’s what makes us human. Juneteenth celebrates a Black holiday, but it applies to us all. Today (actually tomorrow) commemorates the day when slavery was ended in Texas. As much as southern states sometimes like to posture, all but the most frightfully unenlightened know that slavery is wrong. The exploitation of others because we have the power to do so is the very embodiment of evil. There’s no need for a devil if human beings can do this all by themselves. Black lives do matter. We need to stop countering this with “all lives matter” because until we acknowledge systemic racism such responses only serve to perpetuate the problem.
The history of the Christian (and yes, religion fueled and still fuels it) European domination of the world is a long, sad, and unethical one. Blacks, because they’re often so easily visually identified, have borne the brunt of this domination. In many ways this continues to be the case even today. Red lining still exists. Discrimination still exists. Blacks are more likely to be imprisoned than others. Poorly trained police are more likely to shoot and kill them. This must change if society is to improve at all. Congress has just passed a bill making Juneteenth a national holiday. This gives the lie to the posturing of many of our elected officials. This shows how deep Trump’s lies went.
More socially conscious employers made today a paid holiday in support of Juneteenth, even before the senate passed the bill. We need to admit that we’ve been wrong. We need to admit that special interests have kept us from seeing what should’ve been as obvious as the color of our own skin. We’ve tried to keep slavery going. We’ve made life hard for those easily identified as not “white.” I have to wonder if this situation would’ve ever developed had we grown the more accurate habit of calling some people pink and others brown. “White” was chosen for its theological implications. Make no mistake, this was a carefully constructed divide. Those who initiated the terminology—pink men, all of them—used their Christianity to demean, debase, and degrade other human beings. Juneteenth celebrates one small step in what is necessarily a long journey. We need to undo systemic racism. We need to learn to say Black Lives Matter and we need to live it.