A Juneteenth Reflection
Min. Christian S. Watkins
June 28, 2022
Can you imagine being free and emancipated from the brutally lethal system and culture of enslavement and not knowing it? This was the case for enslaved people in Texas who were not informed of their freedom until two years after Emancipation. On Monday, June 20, 2022, our nation celebrated Juneteenth, the commemoration of the announcement in Galveston, Texas (General Order No. 3 delivered on June 19, 1865). The Union Army marched from Galveston Island to the Negro Church on Broadway — since renamed Reedy Chapel A.M.E. Church, liberating African Americans from enslavers, many of whom had migrated to Texas after the Civil War to escape Union control, Reconstruction mandates, and oppress Black people.
The delay of freedom ecause of racial bias in Texas is a shame. To be clear, over the past 157 years, our country has experienced moments of racial justice. It’s sad that as the United States carries the mantle as the world-wide beacon of democracy, and a place where all are free to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, social progress and equality measures that weave Black people into the American Dream have been short-lived.
In fact, I believe that it is more accurate to assert that the Black experience in the United States is more closely aligned with great economic and social inequity, loss of life and liberty, and damage to the souls of Black people, than it has ever been tied to equity and equality. From overcoming treatment as three-fifths of a person as slaves, the denigrating effects of the post-antebellum era, the violence of the Jim Crow era, the fight for voting rights, and the ongoing struggle for equity in housing, education, wages, healthcare, etc., Black people face great harm. The racist policies and white supremacy that lingers in the laws, policies and decisions of those who hold dominant power has had tragic, and sometimes deadly, outcomes for Black people.
How can this harm be eased when the United States has yet to fully reckon with, and atone for, slavery — its original sin?
NETWORK Lobby, the Why We Can’t Wait coalition of our partners, other justice-seeking organizations, and civil rights advocates asked President Joe Biden to sign an executive order for reparations by Juneteenth 2022 — and begin the nationwide racial healing and repair. He declined.
Juneteenth symbolizes the enduring Black American spirit and persistence to overcome injustice – despite the numerous delays and denials of equality. It’s time for the waiting to stop. Our President (and Congress, too) can and must do all they can to enact measures that address the long-lasting legacy of slavery. It was a grave mistake to avoid redress and reparations as slavery ended. The consequences of that inaction continue to cast a pall over our government, cultural institutions, criminal legal system, and our economic affairs.
It’s important to name that it is not too late to take action. The opportunity for Black Americans to freely, fairly and fully participate in our nation’s economy and democracy is still available. A reparations study is vital, but there are other measures our national leaders can take:
- Enact key provisions of President Biden’s economic agenda and bipartisan legislation that have been obstructed must be enacted that would help eliminate deep-seated racial inequities in our economic and political systems.
- Address the staggering racial wealth gap
- Stabilize our democracy by fortifying voting rights against exclusion efforts and suppression tactics,
- Create penalties for law enforcement agents who harm or kill Black lives without cause
- End the disparity in policing and sentencing that has created biased mass incarceration rates by race
- Stop allowing violence against immigrants.
As NETWORK advocates for the creation of a reparations commission, we continue supporting policies that will build our country anew by advancing racial justice and racial equity. We invite justice-seekers to advocate with us. Click here to find ways to take action.