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Juneteenth Reflections

Editorial Note: This post is part of our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization.

I really struggled putting this newsletter together this round. While in the throes of a global pandemic, many of us also witnessed George Floyd take his last breath and die at the hands of an out of control police officer via a video recording that most of the world has seen by now.

As a Black American woman, I have seen and read a lot about our history. I have also witnessed and experienced numerous acts of racism and bias. These acts of racism have occurred in the Mid-West, Pacific Northwest, West Coast, South, Mid-South, and the East. Point being that no part of the country is immune. Some of these acts are blatant; however, most are subtle but never go unnoticed by those of us on the receiving end. The acts that many of you may be witnessing for the first time are nothing new unfortunately. This is the reality of Black Americans, Indigenous People, and other People of Color.

Racism is deeply woven into the fabric of America. Black American descendants of slavery were never expected to participate in this country as full citizens. In the 155 years since the total abolition of slavery and the 401 years since the first African slaves landed, we have been fighting an uphill battle to prove our humanity; a battle to prove that we are indeed citizens of this country and that we belong here too.

The events of the last few weeks, months, and years proves that racism is still alive, well, and active in America.

Racism is being followed throughout a store while being one of two shopping in the store and never being asked, “can I help you?”; it is everyone moving to one side of the small office kitchen to avoid being next to you; it is being perceived as a criminal and untrustworthy just because your skin isn’t white. These are just a few of the infinite examples of how this plays out day to day.

June 19th or “Juneteenth” or “Juneteenth Independence Day,” is an important day in history for Black Americans. It is the anniversary of June 19, 1865 when the news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached those enslaved in Texas. The Emancipation Proclamation went to effect on January 1, 1863 abolishing slavery yet the news of this important law did not reach slaves in Texas until more than two years later as it was the most remote state with slaves. In 2020 we celebrated the 155th anniversary of a monumental day for Black Americans. I would like to say thanks Bellwether for acknowledging this day as a holiday.

The Silent March that took place in Seattle on Friday, June 12th [2020] was so powerful that it brought me to tears. Just thinking about it still does. It was so amazing and overwhelming for me. The fact there were so many people there from every race marching in solidarity to say that enough is enough, systemic racism has to end.

This is a huge step in the right direction working towards lifting the veil and dismantling systemic and institutionalized racism in America. We have a long way to go but acknowledging and owning this legacy is the first step towards change.

Secondly, I want to acknowledge that June is Pride Month! Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month (LGBTQ Pride Month) is celebrated annually in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots, and works to achieve equal justice and equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans. In June of 1969, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City staged an uprising to resist the police harassment and persecution LGBTQ Americans were commonly subjected. This uprising marks the beginning of a movement to outlaw discriminatory laws and practices against LGBTQ Americans.

In the end, I want to implore you all to open your minds and realize that at the end of the day, and before anything else, we are all HUMAN. Once we acknowledge that and realize that we all deserve the right to live, breathe, and enjoy the same inalienable rights as everyone else, we can begin to heal this nation’s wounds and move away from the legacy of racism and oppression that continues to the haunt the United States.


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