It has been a year since George Floyd died. Another victim of police brutality in Georgia whose last words, “I can’t breathe.” Opal Lee, a 94-year-old activist, said the injustice and systemic racism that the blacks encounter until now is a residual impact of slavery.
With George Floyd’s death, the blacks and the world had enough. The system has let too many racist occasions slide for so long. Activists and allies use the momentum of George Floyd’s death to voice protest and create changes in the American institutions, particularly for people of color. From acknowledging the existence of systemic racism to passing bills that demands accountability for unjust and racist behavior.
Now, Opal Lee is making her mark by successfully making Juneteenth a national holiday. Her accomplishment signifies a step forward that helps people learn that black American history is a part of American history, too.
In short, having Juneteenth as a national holiday is about addressing the uncomfortable intertwined past between the oppressor and the oppressed, so we can start working towards equality for the blacks.
History of Juneteenth
In 1865 on the 19th of June, the Union soldiers came to Texas to proclaim the freedom of the slaves. Since then, on that date, the black community celebrates the occasion as Jubilee Day or Juneteenth yearly.
President Abraham Lincoln declared emancipation for slaves two years prior. It just happens that Texas was the last place that knows the abolition of slavery. In 1865, the United States amended its constitution for the 13th time, which erased slavery and other unlawful servitude. It was a long time coming. The Declaration of Independence was already talking about the equality of all humans and freedom since 1776. Grievously, it took another hundred years to include blacks in the 'all human' category.
In Texas, this day is a regional holiday since the 1980s. But the rest of America mostly follow suit starting last year - thanks to the many supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement around the country.
Tulsa Race Massacre: Evidence of Longstanding Systemic Racism
It is a pity that even after the Emancipation Declaration was announced, and bearing in mind the United States Declaration of Independence, there were still remnants of racism. Like what happened at Tulsa Race Massacre (or back then known as the Greenwood District) in Oklahoma. The event results in a complete wipeout of an entire flourishing black community, courtesy of public officials who provide weapons and angry white civilians.
I suppose no country is perfect, and perhaps back then, the education about racism was still lacking. But you would think by now racism would no longer be an issue.
Now, things have gotten better – somewhat. Blacks can marry anyone they like, work in any field, sit anywhere in public transit, and obtain an education. For instance, Brookings found that in 1964 18% of Caucasians claimed to have black friends, but in 1998 this number increase to 86%. Seventy years ago, white families said they would move if a black neighbor move in. Forty years later, the number drops to a mere 1%.
But again, things are only somewhat better. Unfortunately, microaggressions and residual, (sometimes not) subtle racism from the slavery days still exist.
As Karl Marx said, “History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as a farce.” We should be concerned about finding systemic racism still breathes in government institutions like the police department. To make it worse, now civil servants did not merely prepare weapons. Officers who swore to serve and protect partake directly in George Floyd's murder.
Racism towards African-American in Modern Society
Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Gardner, George Floyd, and many others died by the police. Even the police murdered the underage Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. These names become evidence that black persons are more likely to be racially profiled and killed by the police despite being unarmed.
On the same day of the murder of George Floyd, a woman contacted the police, falsely reporting Christian Cooper. She accused him of threatening her when he asked her to leash her pet in an area in a leash-only zone. She threatened to call 911 to report that a black man is threatening her. What Cooper experienced is one example of false reporting based on race. There are more reports out there - CNN happens to document many instances of such incidents.
The apparent wealth gap between the white and black is staggering. The average white household has ten times more net worth than their black counterparts.
75% of Black Americans live closer to areas with industrial pollution, contributing to their increased mortality rate compared to their white peers.
White adults are less likely to face incarceration than blacks.
The Impact of Racism
Racism impacts the mental health of black people. Parents worry for their offspring. They fear that one day they will return home in a body bag. Imagine watching the news daily and repeatedly see the people from your race got shot. The BLM protest must also be a mentally taxing feat for the black community. Imagine shouting under the hot scorching sun for hours and many days - but the killings and discrimination remain.
I want to encourage everyone to celebrate Juneteenth by remembering that all people are created equal. It is time we combat systemic racism, a residue from the days of slavery. Report or speak up when you notice racist behavior. Most importantly, we eed to keep fighting until black lives matter.
If you are a black person affected by racism, please contact Bridge the Divide's Racism Reporting Hotline at 888-301-3211. For more resources to learn more about the impact of racism, visit Black Lives Matter official website.