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Juneteenth: It feels like we've emerged from a year of unrest but have so far to go still

It's no secret that I'm not Black. I say that because, while I am taking the liberty to voice my opinions, I recognize that I'm a person of color but an outsider to the experiences and hardships of Black people in this country. I write this from a place of support and with a sense of discretionary hope.

The last 15 months were riddled with challenges and hardships from a raging pandemic, transitioning to telework, cooking nearly every meal – don't judge me but this is particularly challenging for me – relationships maintained via Zoom and FaceTime and heavy, heavy political unrest.

What caused the unrest? Well it seems the list is endless. Some would say contentious presidential elections followed by voter fraud accusations and an eventual insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Those things did happen. But it seems to me that many people, particularly people of color, will immediately start with tragedy incited by racism carried out through police brutality. George Floyd was murdered and the violence only persisted as more citizens were unduly killed and hundreds more faced great danger as they protested in the streets.

Of course, almost by design of the universe or God or whomever you believe in, all of this culminated in a clash leading up to June 19, 2020. After quite literally hundreds of years of marginalization and racism, Black communities pleaded for commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States as a means to recognize the injustices carried out and lasting effects on people today. Unfortunately, that was too much to ask at the time.

Now, a year later, the day, known as Juneteenth, has been ratified as a federal holiday which calls for a deserved celebration as a step in the right direction. The thing is, it's only a step.

My fear, as I suspect is the same of others, is that declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday in some way marks the ominous checkmark that gets the country off the hook for any further progress toward equity and inclusivity in any true sense.

Yes, there are more policies to enact, initiatives to create and support to provide, but to me it seems like the brunt of our work is societal and interpersonal. There is a substantial need to rewire America's brains to interact with people of different ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds with an equitable level of access to opportunities for success like education, health and respect. This doesn't mean we need to be colorblind, but rather that we're not partial to any one color over another.

This has proven to be one of, if not the most, difficult thing for human beings to accomplish simply because it's never been accomplished. Discrimination, even genocide, is carried out on the basis of religion, geographic origins, skin color, speaking different languages, gender, etc.

Do I know how these things should I be accomplished on a societal level? Absolutely not. However, I do know that we each have the tools and privilege of access to information online to become educated and a wealth of knowledge from people with lived experiences, valuable opinions and innate worth as human beings. I've done my best to embrace that and take one step toward being an open-minded and informed listener first and participant in social change second.

Looking toward the weekend that I anticipate will be bustling with this same mixed emotion energy of gladness and expectation of more. My hope is that the declaration of Juneteenth as a federal holiday serves as a starting point building momentum for positive changes to come rather than an end to such a short-lived period of reckoning.


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