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“Celebrate Juneteenth!”

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

By Dr. Gregory P. Stallworth

Our nation’s origin and development began with an indelible birth defect called slavery. With an undeniably sad and unfortunate past of 339 years (1526 – 1865) of institutionalized inhumanity and brutality, which then transitioned into decades of federal and state laws that supported unlawful discrimination, our great republic has a sordid and soiled past.

Therefore, it was truly a blessing when slavery ended with Abraham Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, which went into effect on January 1, 1863.

The Emancipation Proclamation, which was written as a military order, extended freedom to enslaved people in the Confederate States that remained in open rebellion against the Union. For the Emancipation Proclamation to become a reality, military victories by the U.S. Army had to be achieved in those states, as well as an ongoing military presence to enforce those key victories.

It was not until two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect that Texas was forced to obey the order. In the city of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army officially read aloud federal orders proclaiming that all enslaved people in Texas were free immediately. As a result, freedom for all enslaved people was finally in full effect everywhere in the United States of America.

Over the years, this historic event, which is now commonly known as Juneteenth, a name reflective of June and the nineteenth, has been marked by annual celebrations that emphasize the value of not only celebrating freedom but the patient and painstaking struggle of overcoming human oppression.

When our nation, particularly the federal government and its citizens, someday fully embraces its ugly past, extends an apology for its atrocities, and seeks ways to heal, we will truly be on the road toward recovery. Accepting responsibility for our past mistakes is a critical part of accepting the diversity ideology.

However, in reality, many people, particularly ones who ascribe to ultra-conservativism, choose not to accept, value, and validate the importance of remembering the dark past that negatively impacted the pathway and development of formerly enslaved people and their descendants.

Those same people who oppose the truth will likely continue to thwart the opportunity for diversity to become a part of our value system. They narrow-mindedly fail to observe and understand that diversity is one of America’s greatest inherent elements of strength.

Our unique history reflects vitality, versatility, and strength. Whether it’s widely accepted or not, these are the key elements of diversity. For some people, diversity is an appealing word that denotes the embracing of differences in people; however, for others, diversity has become an offensive word that is somehow viewed as threatening.

This is particularly true of many people who view the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) as morally wrong, failing to understand the critical nexus between history and its profoundly negative impact on today’s societal racially based norms.

In a textbook published by Oxford University Press in 2015 titled “Race & Racisms, A Critical Approach” by Tanya Maria Golash-Boza, it says,

“The brutal, troubled history of the idea of race clearly demonstrates the power of ideologies about human difference. The idea that the world’s population can be divided into discrete racial groups is a product of a specific series of events: colonialism, slavery, and the rise of science. Because Europeans wished to take land from indigenous peoples in the Americas and to extract labor from Africans, they developed ideologies of inferiority as justification.”

Although CRT seeks to make the masses more sensitive and aware of the origin of racism, commonly called becoming “woke,” the CRT name alone causes a negative emotional reaction of anger and even rage in many people. In deep skepticism, cynically minded people think diversity and CRT are conspiratorial attempts to unjustly ridicule the descendants of European Americans while empowering people of color by systemically giving them an unjustified advantage. Thus, many people mistakenly think diversity undermines the ideology of unity. As a result, unity and diversity have become opposing terms. This is largely because we are still intrinsically divided as a nation.

Many people fail to understand that embracing both unity and diversity means we believe we are one tightly woven family that values our individual differences. In fact, diversity is an inherent and integral part of our evolution. We are a nation founded on the ideology of nobly serving as the world's refuge for immigrants from all nations.

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" – excerpt from “The Colossus” - a sonnet written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus and posted on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Furthermore, reflecting that Almighty God sees mankind as one unified humanity of a myriad of origins and cultures, Acts 17:26-27 says, “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of habitation. That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, though he be not far from every one of us.”

In recent years, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has become a popular ideological phrase that reflects a business’ or organization's prudent and strategic movement toward becoming diverse in population, equal and just in its policies and doctrine, and inclusive in its activities. As part of many DEI initiatives within business entities, today is the celebration of Juneteenth.

Fully embracing and engaging DEI initiatives, such as Juneteenth, is a progressive and positive step toward our nation someday collectively accepting both unity and diversity as a societal goal and standard. If this ever fully happens, we will begin to universally see and benefit from the truly powerful effects of societal unity and diversity. It will prove to accentuate our harmony and deepen our strength as we continue to grow stronger and stronger as the greatest nation on earth.


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