OK. I’ll give credit where credit is due.
Thank you, 117th Congress, for finally passing Senate Bill 475, officially known as “Juneteenth National Independence Day” and technically known as Public Law No. 117-17. Also, thank you, President Joe Biden, for quickly signing that bill into law June 17.
But, um, I ain’t too impressed because what y’all did is akin to giving starving diners a mere morsel from the massive buffet they already paid extra for. I mean, yeah, they appreciate a few breadcrumbs and all since they’re famished. However, it’s not enough, not nearly enough! You owe ‘em more, much more!
As Brother Malcolm X so profoundly and prophetically stated, “The white man will try to satisfy us with symbolic victories rather than economic equity and justice.” And as yours truly, Michael X, adds, “They’ll do that rather than provide judicial, educational, and other substantive equity and justice.”
The white man has owed us since Aug. 25, 1619, when he began formally enslaving us in British colonial America. And he continues to owe us since the Redemption Era, the Black Codes, sharecropping, peonage labor, convict-leasing, pervasive lynchings, Jim Crow, the sabotaging of Brown v. Board of Education, legislative voter disenfranchisement, court-sanctioned gerrymandering, redlining, stop and frisk, police brutality/murder, mass incarceration, and all other components of systemic racism in general.
Obviously, slavery was by far the worst of it all. Pervasive lynchings were a close second — and to make matters worse, many of the murderous white lynchers are still alive, as well as many of the traumatized Black eyewitnesses to those sadistically public lynchings. As documented by the U.S. Census Bureau, “‘At least’ 4,742 people ... were reported lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968.” That’s not a typo. That’s 1968! And that’s quite recent.
The average child generally develops “explicit memories” at around age 6 or 7, as concluded by Dr. Carole Peterson, a psychology professor at Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland and a child psychology author. Therefore, if the last lynching occurred in 1968, a Black eyewitness who can recall exactly what happened would’ve been born around 1961 or 1962, which means he or she would be only 59 or 60 years old today. And that living, thinking Black eyewitness still would be horrifically traumatized and emotionally scarred up to and including this very day.
It’s actually worse than that. Congress wasn’t as precise as it should have been. The last lynching wasn’t 53 years ago in 1968. The last three lynchings (that we know of) were on June 7, 1998, when 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas, was dragged to death behind a car until decapitated; Feb. 23, 2020, when 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Satilla Shores, Georgia, was hunted down and shot to death; and May 25, 2020, when 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis was strangled to death for nearly 10 minutes.
That’s 2020. That’s last year. That’s right now. Blacks still are being lynched right now. And a racist senator (i.e., Rand Paul of Kentucky) from the racist Republican Party is still blocking passage of the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching bill, which is designed to simply and finally specify lynching as a hate crime. That’s all. But that Republican still says “no” — just as racist congresspersons said “no” to the 1918 Dyer Anti-Lynching bill and the 2018 Justice for Victims of Lynching bill.
I like the Juneteenth federal holiday law. In fact, I like it a lot. But I love me some equity and justice in the form of an anti-lynching law as well as some equity and justice in the form of a law for reparations, a law mandating Critical Race Theory education, a law to defund/defang the police, a law to end qualified immunity for police, a law to end mass incarceration, a law to end stop and frisk, a law to end voter disenfranchisement, and a law to end all systemic racism.
Each year, we must celebrate what happened on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, when approximately 250,000 formerly enslaved Blacks in that state finally received official confirmation from Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of their (supposed) freedom — 2½ years after President Abe Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was announced Sept. 22, 1862, and allegedly implemented Jan. 1, 1863.
But more than annual celebration is required. As the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, made clear, “Yes, it’s fitting that Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. It’s an important day to celebrate freedom for all by commemorating the end of chattel slavery in the United States. But concrete legislative action is needed to remedy the historic wrongs wrought by white supremacy.”
Furthermore, as bluntly and powerfully and accurately stated by Democratic Congressperson Cori Anika Bush of Missouri, “It’s Juneteenth AND reparations (that are needed). It’s Juneteenth AND an end to police violence and the war on drugs. It’s Juneteenth AND an end to housing and education apartheid. It’s Juneteenth AND the teaching of the truth about white supremacy in our country. Black liberation in its totality must be prioritized.”
As usual, the Honorable Sistah Madam Bush is right on point.
Because my enslaved ancestors actually built this country, their descendants are owed much more than a morsel. They are owed a buffet, a buffet they already paid extra for — with blood, sweat, and tears as well as life itself.
In his seminal book, “Capitalism and Slavery,” scholar Eric Williams wrote that slavery was the engine that propelled Europe’s and its American colonies’ rise to power. He pointed out that slavery helped finance the Industrial Revolution.
Moreover, as documented by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, “By 1840, the South grew 60 percent of the world’s cotton and provided some 70 percent of the cotton consumed by the British textile industry. Thus, slavery paid for a substantial share of the capital, iron, and manufactured goods that laid the basis for American economic growth.”
In addition, David Blight, an American history professor at Yale University, revealed that “By 1860, there were more millionaires (‘slaveholders’ all) living in the lower Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the United States. In the same year, the nearly four million American ‘slaves’ were worth some $3.5 billion, making them the largest single financial asset in the entire U.S. economy, worth more than all manufacturing and railroads combined.”
In case you didn’t know, $3.5 billion in 1860 equals over $113 billion (i.e., $113,515,963,855.42) in 2021. That’s only what America owes as a refund for the evil profits it accrued. That does not include the additional amount owed as compensation for 400 years of physical injury, emotional distress, mental anguish, nightmarish trauma and death stemming from kidnappings, family separations, forced labor, brutal beatings, sadistic whippings, mass amputations, widespread torture, and relentless rapes followed by Jim Crow, slums, illiteracy, inadequate health care, unemployment, oppression, and injustice, all as essential gears in the grinding machinery of systemic racism resulting in today’s white privilege and Black disadvantage.
America owes us vastly much more than a holiday because we performed brutally hard labor from “can’t see in the morning till can’t see at night” to build this country and its greatest facilities, including — but not nearly limited to — the White House in 1792, the U.S. Capitol in 1793, George Washington’s Mt. Vernon, Virginia, plantation/estate in 1758, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Virginia, plantation/estate in 1772, and New York’s Wall Street in 1652 (which was used as a “slave” auction site from 1711 to 1762).
Therefore, in the immortal (and slightly revised) words of Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, in “Goodfellas”: “Eff you. Pay me.”
And we want Congress and President Biden to know that we don’t accept holidays alone.