This month is KOOP Radio’s Juneteenth Celebration Event Month: Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. However, this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official 1/1/1863.
If we fast forward to 5/17/1954 another landmark legal reform, this time by our Supreme Court case ruling in Brown v. Board of Education and Bolling v. Sharpe, was made. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the “separate but equal” doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, which ‘guaranteed equal treatment under the law’.
But again, promises in law were not executed in practice, as more than a decade later, just like with the Emancipation Proclamation nearly a century before, ‘laws’ made but not followed enabled second class citizenry of black US citizens to continue.
In fact, Malcolm X referred to this Supreme Court decision and our refusal to enforce it, as proof to support his conclusions which he reiterated in his 2/14/65 speech which was more than a decade after our highest court declared equal treatment under the law and an end to segregation as the rule of the land; This is what he said, “…I would like to point out that the approach that was used by the administration right up until today, by even the present generation was designed skillfully to appear that they were trying to solve the problem when they actually were not. They would deal with the conditions but never the cause. They only gave us tokenism. Tokenism benefits only the few, it never benefits the masses. And the masses are the ones that have the problems, not the few.”
Does the explosion of protests sweeping our nation following George Floyd’s murder by police come largely from such frustrations and the focus again being more focused on ‘the conditions’ rather than ‘the causes’ of systemic racism?
Is it sufficient progress to have progressive law changes if they are not followed while second class citizenry for blacks continues well into the 21st century?
Today gross inequalities continue to exist. Just one example is that blacks are 13-14% of our US population yet possess just 2-3% of its wealth while the average black family has $840K less wealth than the average white family.
Please join K.O.O.P. throughout June in celebration of Juneteenth to celebrate Black history, tradition, pride and progress. And to question, if PROGRESS can be at the same time a LACK OF PROGRESS.
Artwork by Grace Reyer of The Clear Spot