A "Nothing Will Fundamentally Change"
by C. A. Matthews
The white man will try to satisfy us with symbolic victories rather than economic equity and real justice. -- Malcolm X
I was not particularly excited to hear that Biden had signed a proclamation making Juneteenth into a federal holiday recently. I read somewhere that Juneteenth is already a holiday in 47 states, so it comes across as too little, too late in regards to turning it into a federal holiday. But Biden's timing on making it a holiday really begs the question, "Why now?"
If you get your news headlines from independent news sources, the answer to that question is fairly obvious. Not everyone is so enlightened, so here is a short explanation to make things clear:
Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis, who are trying to maintain the memorials erected to George Floyd, are being pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, and shot at by police with rubber bullets. Cops across the country are still getting away with the murders of and assaults upon people of color. Violence against non-white Americans hasn't gone away just because Trump isn't in the White House.
Upwards of 11 million Americans--many of them people of color--face homelessness when the moratorium on evictions ends on June 30th. Twenty-six states are kicking 3.6 million people off the dole during a pandemic, ending the $300 extra weekly unemployment benefits. The pandemic has ended many jobs in the service sector once and for all, which affects many black and brown workers. And we're still without Medicare For All, a universal health care plan that would cover Americans no matter their work or health status.
Of course, racism is still rampant in the US, reparations for slavery have never been made, restitution for the burning down and massacre of black residents of the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma (among others), has never been made, and the differential in wealth between white and black families has never been higher. The average net wealth gap between white and black households is $800,000 according to a survey taken in 2016. According to the Brookings Institute, if black households held a share of the national wealth in proportion to their share of the total US population, it would amount to $12.68 trillion in household wealth, rather than the actual sum of $2.54 trillion.
The actual racial wealth gap in the US is $10.14 trillion. That's a lot of reparations to be made, isn't it?
Can you imagine the billionaire capitalists--who have made the majority of their wealth from the poorly-paid labor of people of color--paying their fair share of taxes and returning that stolen wealth to African American communities? Our tax code is not blind, and people of color find themselves being penalized more often than upper-class whites.
So, why now? Why make Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021? Because politicians will do anything to distract the public from considering how little they actually care about what is happening--or what will happen--to any of us.
To quote Emma Goldman: "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." Some politicians might want to make voting more difficult for people of color, but it's not illegal yet. That's only because it does serve a purpose--it distracts many into thinking that the current governmental system actually works in their favor as they're forced to vote for the "lesser of two evils."
So, pardon me if I label June 19th as a "Nothing Will Fundamentally Change" federal holiday because nothing has been set in motion by the federal government to demonstrate that things will change for the better for African Americans and for other non-white Americans. I'd love to be proven wrong, but I have the sad feeling I won't be.
We should keep celebrating
and remembering what Juneteenth signifies, but we shouldn't forget that there's still much to be done to make things
right for every American. Celebrate but don't forget. It's what they want us to do, so let's not give them the confidence that they've thrown the wool over our eyes by creating another bank holiday that most poor people of color will be forced to work. Let's keep fighting for justice. Let's keep fighting for fundamental change.
https://youtu.be/LR1WejBI87U and this companion video on so-called "Race Riots" (which are massacres by any other name): https://youtu.be/U-U4HLR5HZ0
To honor Juneteenth, 2 facts:— Richard D. Wolff (@profwolff) June 20, 2021
1) US capitalism profited from slavery before Civil War ended it.
2) US capitalism profited from and reproduced racism directed against African-Americans ever since.
History suggests that getting beyond capitalism will help us get beyond racism.
I’m happy folk are happy but this is also very precarious. Mainstreaming Juneteenth means there’s now massive amt of inaccurate messaging—“it marks end of slavery”—and its very clear its being used to push a false idea of “progress” instead of a call to dismantle white supremacy— DEFUND & ABOLISH POLICE, REFUND OUR COMMUNITIES (@BreeNewsome) June 19, 2021
From Public Citizen:
Some quick history:
- Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862.
- It said that all enslaved people in Confederate states were to be freed as of January 1, 1863.
- But it was not until over two years later that Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865.
- And it was another two months before Union troops informed the last remaining slaves (in Texas) that they were free — on June 19, 1865.
Since then, Juneteenth (that’s June plus nineteenth)
has been a day to reflect on not just the history of slavery but also
its ongoing effects and the work we still have to do together to bring
about racial justice.
Yesterday — with legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden just last week — the United States officially observed Juneteenth as a federal holiday for the first time.
The historic legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday was introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.
Tell Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee:
Thank you for leading the way to make Juneteenth a federal holiday!
Add your name.
Thanks for taking action.
- Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen
Today is Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day the last American slaves learned they were free. As we celebrate it is important to remember that the abuse, dehumanization, and invisibility that characterized domestic work during the time of slavery persists today. In fact, Black domestic workers are some of the most invisible, essential, and unprotected workers in our country.
For these reasons and many more, we believe that our organizing must be led by and center the lives of Black women. Through our We Dream in Black (WeDiB) program and its Unbossed Agenda, we are committed to shaping the future in a way that lifts up the Black domestic workforce and brings value and respect to our labor and history of our struggle.
Black domestic workers are essential — to our economy, democracy, and society. They care for our children, our homes, our elderly family members, and our loved ones with disabilities.
Yet, for centuries, the systems that built and fueled America and its wealth thrived on a disregard for, and subjugation of Black women — and domestic workers are inseparable from this history.
It’s why racist leaders excluded Black domestic workers from many of the basic labor protections afforded other workers.
It’s why, before the coronavirus pandemic, Black families were one emergency away from a crisis, having been carved out of a social safety net generations ago.
And it’s why, when the COVID-19 virus hit, domestic workers were the first to lose income and the last to receive support, if at all.
And it’s also why every industry, including the care industry, must stand up and confront the reality that today — more than 150 years after the last of the enslaved Americans learned they had been emancipated — Black people in this country are still not truly free.
We have a vision for a better future — one where everyone is able to live and work safely and with dignity. And that vision pulls on the strength and power of Black domestic workers, past and present.
From enslaved women’s daily forms of resistance to the coordinated strikes of washer women in the late 19th-century to organizing initiatives pioneered by 20th-century domestic workers, there is a long and powerful tradition of Black domestic workers organizing to secure justice and dignity – in the workplace and in the broader society.
We honor these legacies by centering the voices and leadership of Black women...because Black women are who the domestic care industry was built to exploit. The Unbossed Agenda is WeDiB’s organizing directive to give power back to the visions of Black domestic workers and to root out the legacy of slavery from the domestic work industry, improving the lives of millions of domestic workers across the nation.
Because, If we can solve for Black domestic workers, we can create an economy and society that works for everyone.
A better future is possible, one in which Black people experience abundant joy, safety, and well-being. And we all have a role to play in building the future everyone deserves. Get started by learning more about our Unbossed Agenda and by investing in Black domestic workers.
Thanks for all that you do,
New York Chapter We Dream in Black Co-Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance
Juneteenth became an official national holiday, and it’s a time for gratitude. It’s also a moment to recognize we still have a long way to go. As you are well aware, the scars left on this nation by America’s original sins — the enslavement of Black People and the genocide of Indigenous Peoples — aren’t going away anytime soon. We must keep working to combat the institutionalized legacy of political, legal, and economic oppression in this country. A national holiday commemorating the freedom of this nation’s last slaves (two years after slavery was legally abolished) is a great step, and it also isn’t enough.
Racism is alive and well in the USA. Right now, in fact, rightwing lawmakers are having a field day attacking educators who want to teach the real history of this country. I encourage you to read my blog post about the necessity of teaching Critical Race Theory in our schools. From there, please sign our petition to lawmakers asking them to support the teaching of America’s true past to our children.
I also encourage you to watch yesterday’s episode of my vlog, “Cut to the Chase.” I was fortunate to have an incredible conversation with Kimberly Jones, the African American author and activist who went viral last year with her powerful video decrying the violence inflicted upon America’s Black people — historically and today — by institutions set up to protect white supremacy.
As Kimberly points out, the propagation of repressive voter suppression laws is meant to keep voices of color out of the national conversation and out of the ballot box. More than a year after George Floyd’s murder — and 156 years after the Thirteenth Amendment — we must continue to have the hard conversations about what brought us here, and we should keep taking aggressive action to make good on America’s promise of justice.
I know that’s a lot of heavy stuff! But it’s part of our growth together, our journey toward true allyship and equity. We must stand beside one another, understand the anger and the pain, and help however we can. Only by actively teaching and learning about our past can we create the future we want for our next seven generations.
Wopila tanka — my hearty thanks for your passionate allyship with all oppressed peoples.
Chase Iron Eyes
Co-Director & Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project
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