I try not to read comments on the Internet laced with vitriol written by anonymous folks. They are angered about the Black Lives Matter and Civil Rights movements to end police brutality and remove symbols that promote injustice and socioeconomic disparity for black people. However, I drawn to some and read them in disbelie. I had no idea there were so many people who held the deep-seated beliefs that most blacks don’t take care of their families, live on public assistance, are drug addicted, steal, rob, commit violent crimes, and lack work ethics – don’t want to work.
Awareness for Juneteenth has become widespread the past two weeks. The holiday is significant this year. Juneteenth brings attention to another atrocity committed against enslaved black people and another reason to protest American injustices. For two and one-half years after being freed by the Emancipation Proclamation issued on January 1, 1863, the enslaved worked for free, serving their white slave owners because the information was withheld.
When the slaves heard the news, some dropped their tools and left. Others stayed because having never experienced freedom did not know what to do or where to go. They opted to work as usual and remain dependent on the slave owners. The enslaved were accustomed to the white owners making decisions for them so, they opted to stay in their enslaved lives they knew. The slaves had been restrained from reading, writing and thinking for years. Some were fearful and afraid to relinquish their dependency on the slave owners. This was one hundred and fifty years ago.
In tandem, we are recognizing this week the anniversary of the burning of Black Wall Street in Tulsa. In 1921, after blacks were able to build a thriving business community to sustain themselves. Angry white mobs burned it to the ground and killed hundreds of black business owners and their family members. This is our history.
For several years during Jim Crow and the civil rights eras, blacks lived in fear of talking about it to avoid retaliation, harm to their families, loss of employment or worse, incarceration for some frivolous charge.
During slavery, my people worked for free. Sun up to sun down they built most of the federal and state structures. The White House and court houses are among the few well-built structures that stand as evidence of hard-working black people. I’ve seen black people including myself, accept poor work conditions, work harder than most would tolerate and earn low pay to take care of their families. I wonder why we are characterized as unwilling to work.
I don’t understand the ostrich with its’ head in the sand mentality of some people in this country. The past atrocities have influenced how minorities are treated in this country. The blame is placed on the very folks who are subjected to poor policies that affect their ability to participate fairly in attaining the ‘American Dream.’
I wrote my memoir to provide a view into the life of a black women faced with numerous obstacles who took steps to overcome them. There are many women like me who managed to use an education to attain a skilled profession to propel themselves and their families forward. We’ve often bypassed unfair hiring and employment practices and have to convince employers and co-workers that we ae harmless. That we have the same aspirations to succeed in this country. Everyday we endure and keep the faith the system will become inclusive of every citizen.
The black protestors know the history of Juneteenth and the burning of Black Wall Street. This history and their personal experiences with covert and now overt racism have fueled their protests. For years, laws have changed to hinder blacks from socioeconomic growth. Public education is underfunded, incarcerations with harsh penalties are higher, and the right to vote is stripped.
These conditions limit participation in our democracy and it is reflected in communities where there is a majority of people of color.
I am grateful to the white people who recognize these wrongs and are willing to sacrifice their reputations to openly oppose these discriminatory practices. We have had their support to end slavery, pass civil rights and voting rights, numerous other compassionate laws.
The unfair policies that we see today affect all Americans. The Covid-19 pandemic has made it apparent there is wealth divide in our country impacting middle- and low-income Americans. When policies are written to limit a certain group; specifically, minorities, it is difficult to keep these policies from impacting the working poor of other races.
The past four months, we’ve seen food bank lines with white, black, brown or red people seeking assistance. The working poor find the economic disparities we are seeing as non-discriminatory. This is where we should focus our attention.
I am hopeful with the recent actions by black, white, brown, and red people to protest against injustices will lead to effective actions by our elected official. It is encouraging that our governmental and corporations leaders are willing to have open discussions to heal our nation.
Next we need our all leaders to push for post-secondary education funding, create policies to ensure blacks are not disproportionately incarcerated and killed by law enforcers, and retract laws that inhibit people from exercising their right to vote. I’m not an expert, but we have rights according to the United States Constitution.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” United States Constitution, 14th Amendment
Black, white, brown, and red people need this to become a reality. The protesters need to educate themselves and so they can make decisions on where change is need. Empower those in power and listening to put their efforts towards effective changes. I have faith we will get there.