Celebrate Juneteenth!

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, the anniversary of the announcement of the end of slavery. It’s not a well known holiday for lots of reasons. One is that we don’t really like to talk about that part of our history. We don’t like to acknowledge the shadow side of our country and culture.

But “If you are serious about American culture and you are serious about Afro-American culture, you are in a lot of pain. You are not – you are not smiling about it.”–Wynton Marsalis

I was raised with prejudice; my mother justified slavery and the Confederacy without shame. I don’t think any one thing changed me, but a combination of events in my teens and early twenties. The book and movie, To Kill a Mockingbird made a huge impression on this little white girl.

2018 holds 50th anniversaries of so many seminal events in our racial history–the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Watts Riots that happened just a short distance from our Los Angeles County home. I graduated from high school in 1968–a watershed year by many definitions. That’s the way we become aware and sensitive to issues of race, culture and class–in bits and pieces.

Humility and openness are first steps to confronting shut minds and fearful attitudes that are often part of being White. We White people never ever have to face many many challenges; that’s the definition of White privilege.

Those circumstances are no secret these days, but it’s still possible to be blind to them. I continue to learn and grow in awareness; my latest effort involves joining a book club of Black women and White women to discuss how we can come to a better understanding.

Reading books like Root and Branch, Waking Up White and One Crazy Summer is providing a wealth of insight about the long fight for justice and the continuing injustices Black people face.

The point of Juneteenth is to bring attention to our history of slavery and to begin to right some of the wrongs committed over the last 400 years. Join in the celebration!

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