Tomorrow is Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery by marking the day enslaved people in Texas learned they were free. It is now a federal holiday. Since some may still not know its origin, it is worth a review.
The Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln which became official on Jan. 1, 1863, was supposed to free the slaves. However, with the Civil War going on and with the communication system of the time, people in Texas did not know that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. On June 19, 1865, the day when General Gordon Granger and the Union soldiers occupied Galveston, Texas, two and a half years later, the General announced that all slaves were now free. That day, 250,000 slaves were freed in Texas. In December1865 slavery was abolished in this nation with the adoption of the 13th Amendment. On June 19,1866, freedmen in Texas celebrated the first of what became known as “Jubilee Day”. This holiday later became known as Juneteenth, a shortening of June 19.
Now, roughly 155 years later, we are reflecting on the history we have as a country. We are discussing structural racism and modern-day slavery. We are professing again that all have equal rights, but, as many of us understand, those rights are not always equal in terms of laws, policies and practice. We realize with regret that, even though historically we proclaimed freedom from slavery, there are many practices and ingrained biases in this country that still keep people of color from complete equality. Although we are making effort to change that, the road is far from smooth.
That all may be one.
Examine your own perceptions and attitudes honestly. What is your reaction to the events and movements that have occurred over the past few years? How much do cultural biases and prejudices influence you? If necessary, where are you called to change? What steps will you take?
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
1 John 2:11
We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.
Listen to that Spirit moving within you; listen to what your African American brothers and sisters have to say; and let the Spirit working through them teach you, and then act.
James Martin, SJ
The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
As long as people can be judged by the color of their skin, the problem is not solved.
We all decry prejudice yet are all prejudiced.
At the heart of racism is the religious assertion that God made a creative mistake when He brought some people into being.
Friedrich Otto Hertz
No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise.
It’s important for us to also understand that the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ simply refers to the notion that there’s a specific vulnerability for African Americans that needs to be addressed. It’s not meant to suggest that other lives don’t matter. It’s to suggest that other folks aren’t experiencing this particular vulnerability.
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.
General Gordon Granger