June 21, 2022
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” – Maj. Gen. Granger, Order No. 3
This year, for the first time, Juneteenth is an official paid state holiday. I would like to use this holiday as a time to reflect on our nation’s history of systemic racism, so that we may move thoughtfully and intentionally towards a future where systemic racism is no longer a plague black Americans endure.
We should contemplate why it has taken more than 150 years to fully recognize the day on which slaves in Texas were informed by federal troops that President Lincoln had—two-and-a-half years earlier—signed the Emancipation Proclamation and that they were free. The date was June 19, 1865, two months after the Civil War ended. Unfortunately, even though slavery had officially ended, racism continued to permeate every facet of life in the US.
Unfortunately, deeply entrenched institutional racism means for black folks that “freedom” does not translate to “equality”. The unfortunate reality is that systemic racism has prevented many black Americans from accessing safe, appropriate healthcare services (as explained by Dr. Camara Jones here) On top of that, racism within the healthcare field (even in nursing), has led to countless acts of racially-fueled harm, which worsens health outcomes overall for black Americans. Take for example, the 500% higher death rate from asthma that Black children face as compared to White children.
It is important to reflect on our history, so that we may contextualize the present, and honor those that came before us, those that laid the foundation for the fight we will continue. As we celebrate this holiday, we must not lose sight of why this is a holiday in the first place (institutionalized racism) and use that awareness to work towards becoming a truly antiracist society, a society in which everyone can thrive.