Point of View Columns

Why the Juneteenth Holiday is a Clear and Present Danger

It should go without saying, but in these days and times it must be said, the establishment of the Juneteenth federal holiday is a good and great thing. It is good because every time that this nation inches towards full recognition of the humanity of Black Americans, there remains a possibility that the aspirations set forth in its origins might actually become a reality in someone’s lifetime.

It is great because President Biden continues to demonstrate that he is not taking the Black vote/support for granted – something that too many other white (and Black) Democrats have not been able to do on a regular basis. While it is true that systemic racism in its many hydra-headed forms continue to exist, it is also true that symbolism can inspire hope and in turn hope can inspire action and action can create change.

Of course there will never be enough outrage that some Republicans will wish to visit on this country, several of the more egregious mouth breathers like Ron Johnson and Ted (Cancun) Cruz have decided that, upon President Biden signing the bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday, it would be a good time to mount a full-throated attack on critical race theory and defend America against attacks on systemic racism.

As it turns out, critical race theory is an academic area of study tracing the continuum of racism in the American legal system. Johnson, Cruz, et. al. have interpreted CRT as an attack on America, American values and apple pie. And they want to ban the teaching of CRT anywhere. And in fanning these fake claims of outrage they have inflamed the hearts and minds of far too many white Americans.

According to Cruz and Johnson and their cohorts, teaching the fact that eight of the first ten presidents of the United States were slaveholders is an attack on American traditions. The fact that emancipation did not end systemic racism in this country should also not be taught at any level – whether K-12 or in colleges and universities (the recent controversy regarding the denial of tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones by the University of North Carolina is only one outrage).

Indeed, even #45 chimed in claiming that CRT would teach American children to hate this country. Of course this presumes that teaching children to hate racism, to hate slavery, to hate the inhumane treatment of any human beings means that children will hate America.

Clearly the battle to clear, or corral, white supremacy and white supremacist theory (or WST) has been an ongoing struggle. There are too many adherents who believe that the truth about America and race would diminish this country not realizing that virtually every country has an historical past that sheds little honor on that country.

Consider the treatment of serfs, commoners and peasants in England and France for centuries or the intentional starvation of the Irish by the British or the Inquisition in Spain or the naked decadence accompanying the fall of the Roman Empire and the Greek city states. These are all immense national flaws that have been overcome to some significant extent by the citizens and institutions of those countries. Clearly the British and the French and the Greeks and the Italians and the Spanish can handle truth and move on towards making their respective countries better.

Clearly Cruz and Johnson and #45 and so many more don’t believe that the American people can handle the truth and move on to being a better country. And they are doing everything within their power to make this belief the truth.

And it would such a sad commentary on this country if they are right.

And that is why, for too many people, the Juneteenth Holiday, however symbolic, is a clear and present danger to the twin myths of white supremacy and American exceptionalism.

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Point of View Columns

The Tulsa Atrocity – What We Don’t Know

On this day, June 1, 2021, Joe Biden became the first United States president to acknowledge the Tulsa race massacre that took place one hundred years ago. It took a century for the head of this state of this country to not only to acknowledge the atrocity of the devastation of Greenwood and the murder of hundreds of its Black residents – in the process he also acknowledged the humanity of Black Americans – an act which has been so very difficult for this country.

The fact that an atrocity of such scope could be hidden from virtually all Americans for most of this past century makes it clear that this country has no moral standing to condemn similar atrocities in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It is also clear that even as President Biden offered more than condolences – he also made concrete proposals to address the economic disparities that have been the result of the massacre in Tulsa, and in most of these United States.

But the question must be asked – what is it that we don’t know. If the massacre of hundreds of men, women and children and the total devastation of a large and thriving community could literally disappear from national memory, it is impossible to believe that the destruction of Greenwood was an outlier, an anomaly, some kind of unfortunate divergence from decency.

We do know about the race massacres in Rosewood, Florida and in Atlanta – but what about Elaine, Arkansas where 100-237 Black people were massacred by white mobs in 1919. The point is that Black Americans have been experiencing a reign of terror for centuries in this country.

The difference in the modern era is that we don’t see white mobs decimating Black communities, but sadly we see too many out of control white police officers murdering Black men, women and children one by one. In the modern era we don’t see white mobs roaming the streets of Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant or Compton. What we do see is the systematic and systemic denial of basic human needs – housing, medical care, access to transportation, quality education and clean water.

We do not see the apocalyptic horror of roaming mobs. Instead we see the slow motion decimation of human being, denying the humanity of too many Black men, women and children in the process. And to be clear, it is not only Black Americans who suffer this indignity. And to be clear, it is always Black Americans who are first, last and always the targets and victims of this not so benign neglect.

It is interesting that telling the truth about the experience of Black Americans in this country – also known as Critical Race Theory – is actually against the law in the state of Texas, and we can be sure that other states will follow. It is interesting that too many Americans are comfortable with lies and myths and are adamantly opposed to uncomfortable truths.

Finally, what we do know is that unless and until all Americans confront and address these uncomfortable truths there is zero possibility of this nation ever attaining the ideals that are articulated in its founding documents.

This country simply cannot endure while living a lie.

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