"This year, at least 28 states and the District of Columbia will legally recognize Juneteenth as a public holiday – meaning state government offices are closed and state workers have a paid day off " – according to a Pew Research Center analysis
As we commemorate Juneteenth, a significant milestone in African American history, it becomes crucial to address how new laws, coupled with book bannings, further erode our collective understanding of racial inequality.
In a society that strives for progress and equality, it is disheartening to witness the enactment of laws that devalue and marginalize the contributions of African Americans and other communities of color. These laws not only dismiss the challenges faced by these communities but also perpetuate a cycle of systemic racism.
In the words of Derrick Johnson, President & CEO of The NAACP, "Failing to teach an accurate representation of the horrors and inequalities that Black Americans have faced and continue to face is a disservice to students and a dereliction of duty to all."
The Significance of Recognizing Juneteenth
June 19th, also known as Juneteenth and Emancipation Day, commemorates the day in 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of slavery, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth serves as a powerful reminder of the long journey towards freedom for African Americans.
By recognizing this momentous event in our nation's history, we acknowledge the struggles and achievements of African Americans, and move closer to breaking the cycle of devaluation.
Understand New Laws and Their Impact
Numerous recent laws, enacted under the guise of election security or public safety, have disproportionately targeted African Americans and other marginalized communities. Such legislation undermines the hard-won progress towards equality and seeks to silence the voices of minority communities. By erecting barriers to voting and restricting education these laws perpetuate systemic racism and marginalize communities of color.
Question Laws that Devalue Contributions and Marginalize Communities
A pivotal case involving restrictive voting measures and gerrymandering tactics in Alabama (Allen v. Milligan) was recently brought before the Supreme Court and ruled to be in violation of voter rights.
June 8th, 2023 - "Today the Supreme Court issued a resounding decision in Allen v. Milligan, a redistricting case involving a claim brought by Black voters challenging Alabama's 2021 congressional map for violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The plaintiffs in the case, including the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, rightfully argued that Alabama's congressional map dilutes the voting strength of Black residents by "packing" a large number of them into a single district while fragmenting other communities. As a result of the decision, Alabama will be required to draw a new congressional map to include a second district with a Black majority." - NAACP Applauds SCOTUS Ruling to Protect Voting Rights, NAACP.
"Gerrymandering is the practice of setting boundaries of electoral districts to favor specific political interests within legislative bodies, often resulting in districts with convoluted, winding boundaries rather than compact areas. The term "gerrymandering" was coined after a review of Massachusetts's redistricting maps of 1812 set by Governor Elbridge Gerry noted that one of the districts looked like a mythical salamander."
- Gerrymandering in the United States, Wikipedia
Stop Book Bannings and the Suppression of Knowledge
Book bannings, another alarming trend, serve as a tool to control narratives and limit knowledge. When books that shed light on the history and experiences of African Americans are removed from school curricula or public libraries, we deny future generations access to diverse perspectives and a comprehensive understanding of racial inequality. By suppressing these vital resources, we perpetuate ignorance and hinder efforts to build an inclusive society.
"More than 1 million books subject to review based on state's new laws
... The books are under review based on several laws that restrict classroom topics, including the Stop WOKE Act and the Parental Rights in Education law, which was called the “Don’t Say Gay” law by LGBTQ activists." - Kiara Alfonseca, abc News
In response to increasingly restrictive laws, The NAACP and The American Federation of Teachers's created the Reading Opens the World program and collaborated to distribute 10,000 books to 25 predominantly Black communities.
Demand Inclusive Education
The exclusion of accurate and inclusive narratives from educational curricula deepens the wounds of racial injustice. Erasing important historical events, suppressing knowledge through book bannings, and excluding accurate narratives from education perpetuates systemic racism and hinders progress towards equality.
African American history is an essential part of American history, and failing to teach it perpetuates systemic bias and devalues the contributions and struggles of African Americans and other communities of color. By sidelining this history, we deny students the opportunity to develop empathy, critical thinking skills, and a comprehensive understanding of the societal challenges faced by marginalized communities.
From Inclusion to Unity
As we reflect on the significance of Juneteenth, It is imperative that we heed the words of Derrick Johnson and recognize that teaching an accurate representation of the challenges faced by Black Americans is not only a moral duty but also crucial for creating a just and inclusive society.
Let us unite to combat regressive laws, advocate for accurate education, and to ensure that the contributions of African Americans and communities of color are recognized, respected, and celebrated.