My kids and I have been celebrating Juneteenth for several years now, so it came as a surprise to me that so many were unaware of this holiday and oppose President Joe Biden's move to declare #Juneteenth a federal holiday, our 12th federal holiday. Of course, my children are homeschooled so they weren't part of the propaganda that caused our country to believe that the Emancipation Proclamation alone ended slavery and that President Abraham Lincoln was the hero for People of Color - the Cliff Note version of American history taught in government schools.
A letter in the New York Tribune from Lincoln offers a little more perspective on this very complex moment in history, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leave others alone, I would also do that." Juneteenth is not properly taught in government schools because that would require people to be honest about our past.
Since the 1800s, African Americans across the United States have celebrated the 19th of June as the end of slavery and the beginning of their freedom. Juneteenth or Emancipation Day, Liberation Day, or Jubilee Day is a day of resilience, community, and #freedom. It was on June 19th, 1865, more than 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation officially outlawed slavery in the United States, that the last known slaves were actually freed, which occurred in Galveston, Texas.
Juneteenth is a day upon which our Black communities reflect on their history, appreciate how far our society has progressed with regards to racism while also recognizing how much work lies ahead of us before People of Color can truly feel free. All of us at Eden Family Practice invite you to celebrate with us and the rest of the country in furthering awareness to help create a more equal and equitable society.
This past year, we had the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police which wasn't an uncommon practice among the Black community, but it was one of the few times this occurred with the entire country witnessing it. The guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin, the police officer response, offered some accountability, but justice for People of Color means no more names being added to list of those who die to this list. Justice is about equal opportunity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We must do more to put justice within reach for everyone.
As a midwife, it never escaped my awareness that four times the number of black women died in childbirth than deaths among white women and while black women were less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, they were far more likely to die from it. Why? It wasn't any particular socioeconomic risk factor - wealth, education, marriage, environment, even genetic links. The reality was that racism impacts these outcomes.
Human rights has always been a passion of mine and is largely why I am in private practice, giving up my own health insurance, retirement, vacations, even sleep while facing intense persecution from my colleagues and even hostility at times so I can work free of scripts, policies, and gag orders that step on the autonomy and freedoms of healthcare consumers. My primary objective is to #educate and #empower so each person I care for can determine for themselves what their best path is for optimal health and healing.
African Americans celebrate Juneteenth with good food like BBQ pork slathered in red sauce, red beans and rice, red drinks such as strawberry soda, and red sweets like #strawberry pie because it is a reminder that Africans were free in their homelands of West Africa. Red represents the blood of the #slaves and its one of the main colors in the Juneteenth flag. One of the few treats slaves enjoyed were strawberries they could sneak out in the field. Once they were freed, these drinks and foods became a celebration of their freedom.
Racism has Shifted
I wrote a fairly significant post about systemic racism this past year, Teaching the Littles about Racism, and I encourage you to take to read it, but I think it is important to understand that even if you have taken a serious dive into your own thoughts and actions and truly identify as someone without racists beliefs or behaviors, this doesn't negate the fact that racism continues and you are either part of that oppression or suffering within it. The challenges of racism have not resolved because slavery was abolished, they've simply shifted to chains of policy, legislation, and systemic racism - each deeply rooted in our institutions. We are in the post-slavery stage of our racism evolution with much more work still to do.
Today we #celebrate. All across the country there are parades, summits, fests, and discussions occurring to bring further awareness to this ongoing issue. We can dig in today and consider how we might overcome our biases. We can walk boldly toward recognizing this in ourselves and acknowledge how we play an important role in compromising the rights of other human beings when we fail to interrupt our own biases and perpetuate ongoing racism.
Today, our family is driving up to Michigan City to relax on the beach. We plan to do nothing but enjoy the sun, the fresh air, and appreciate our and especially the freedoms of People of Color to simply enjoy strawberry pie and red soda. We will converse about race and consider how we might reset and demand change. It's important to me that my children are conscious about Juneteenth and acknowledge our country's history, taking action in creating a more equitable state. We can't continue to pretend that slavery is a thing of the past and ignore that the atrocities of slavery still weigh heavy on the hearts of Black Americans.
I encourage you to take time to develop more empathy of the pain that lies in this history for People of Color. Talk to your friends, your children, and think about how you might create change in your professional circles. Ask hard questions. How do you perpetuate racism? What ways may you not be acknowledging your racist behaviors? Are there any stereotypes that you unconsciously allow to impact your behaviors? Are you actively speaking out about racist comments and actions that you observe in others? Practice these conversations. If you're celebrating today, I'd love to hear your stories in the comments below.