June 19, 2022
Juneteenth, the official freeing of enslaved people on June 19, 1865, in Texas, is one of the most important events in American history — but most students haven’t even been taught it. Maybe that will change now that Juneteenth is a national holiday.
It makes sense to acknowledge the day when Union troops arrived in Galveston a full 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation — it is the start to remedying one of this country’s darkest sins.
However, it also sets in motion the maintenance of Black subordination in the country’s postbellum society. Yes, Black people were no longer enslaved, but white supremacy ideology is still openly and unapologetically killing Black people and people of color because of extreme ignorant terrorist cells of hatred and silently approved all around this country.
Yet, more than 20 states are moving to strike aspects of American history and anti-racist teaching from public school curricula. Their argument is that examining our history of racism breeds contempt that is racially divisive. On the contrary, discussing history truthfully and using its lessons to inform our future breeds empowerment and is racially unifying. Instead of seeding anger and blame, it allows us to approach solutions to current and future problems with the greatest insight and it helps build trust and accountability within our systems.
A white supremacist, neo-Nazi, mass murderer and domestic terrorist was convicted for perpetrating the Charleston church shooting on June 17, 2015, in the state of South Carolina. During a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the terrorist killed nine people, all African Americans, including senior pastor and state senator Clementa C. Pinckney, and injured one other person.
And most recently, a white adult male gunman entranced by a white supremacist ideology known as “replacement theory” opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. He methodically shot and killed 10 people and injured three more, all of them Black, in one of the deadliest racist massacres in recent American history.
Knowledge of our history is essential to inform solutions to future problems.
Gunmen have referenced the racist idea known as “replacement theory” during a string of mass shootings and other violence in recent years. It was once associated with the far-right fringe, but has become increasingly mainstream, pushed by politicians.
Knowledge of our history is necessary for accountability – not retribution or atonement.
Without a clear understanding of what led to these boiling points through an examination of history, we cannot create systems of accountability that are strong enough to maintain order. Studying history does not involve retribution, revenge or atonement. It involves an understanding of why one inciting event can lead to such outrage and mistrust that we need to examine the efficacy of the system itself.
That is what anti-racist teaching does: It does not retroactively place blame on the perpetrators of negative acts. Instead, it examines the role of different systems in allowing repeated negative acts and offers solutions to strip away some of the negative relics of the system that causes these acts to occur. In this case, it is examining the criminal justice system’s history of police brutality in Black communities and adjusting laws and policies that intentionally targeted these communities, while holding wrongdoers accountable in the moment.
Knowledge of our history is empowering and can shift entire narratives about people.
Learning history can be extremely empowering: It provides a portal into what we can achieve, while helping us put current, often negative, conditions into better context. It also provides a crucial opportunity to change the narrative for entire populations of people.
Michael Moore, Associate for African American Intercultural Congregational Support, Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, June 19, 2022, the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Today’s Focus: Juneteenth
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray
Eternal and Divine God, we honestly lament how disheartening it is to still not be free from the bonds of the sin of racism. We lament that the ever-present pain of injustice is like an anchor around the necks of Black people since our enslaved presence in this land. God, help us to see you as the God of the oppressed and savior of those who seek liberation. We ask that you empower those in positions of power to be positive and vocal agents of change instead of silently complicit in the pain of those most marginalized in our world. We thank you for the freedoms obtained and yet we pray for your guidance to achieve that which is still yet not reality. In Jesus’ name we pray this solemn prayer. Amen.