This Juneteenth, I find myself wondering just how free we really are. There is a black man in the White House and a black woman still dominates afternoon tv, even if her ratings are slipping and have been since she supported said black man. Black people can apply for jobs, business and home loans, buy, sell, eat, drink, in public and alongside white patrons. Unlike our brown brothers, we can even live in Arizona, as long as we are a deeper shade of berry that is, tho I don’t know why we would. In the eyes of many, the legacy of slavery and the existence of racism are things of the past.
But let’s break down the difference between then and what many scholars and activists have come to refer to as The New Jim Crow:
- We have a black president but for the first time since the troubled days of reconstruction, or those of 1963, 1965, and 1968, both nationally syndicated radio and talk show hosts are calling for a “million gun march” on Washington and supporting a movement that contains openly racist elements
- Despite the loss of basic civil and human rights under the Bush Administration we only see the rise in law enforcement willing to “defend the rights of states and citizens” after Obama’s inauguration and specifically implying that he will at some point try to “enslave” people, “create concentration camps”, and/or rise up against the “people of the U.S.” based on neither history nor voting record nor any other indication except his blackness (see Oath Keepers manifesto – and no I am not linking there)
- The intentional, and illegal, targeting of black people and other poc for predatory lending , particularly women of color, helped cause the economic crisis and left entire black communities without homes or good credit and the only response has been two administrations handing over stimulus checks to the perpetrators
- Despite exposure of predatory racialized and engendered lending, the bid to profit off of poor black women and other woc (as well as poor white people to a lesser extent) continues in the form of tax loopholes and property law manipulation (You should note that even though the documentary Flag Wars shows a white lesbian real estate agent intentionally targeting and intimidating black home owners, including at least one homophobe, and then reveling in one hold outs death as she picks over her things for resale, that same agent was later featured on an episode of House Hunters, for which she was hired and paid by both the show and the home buyers, living in a mansion in FL)
- Unemployment for African Americans is at a 25 year high while no programs are specifically earmarked to help them
- White supremacist and other hate groups are on the rise with a 54% increase in membership since 2000
- Liberal blogs, established “zines”, journals, news shows, publishers, departments, etc. continue to exclude or tokenize (defined here as having 1-2 people but no more despite multiple opportunities) intellectuals of color giving the sense that we are still only important when discussing race and that only a handful of us have the intellectual chops to do so
- Despite evidence to the contrary, liberal circles are just as likely to blame African Americans and other poc and resort to racism for losses in rights we share but are perceived of as their own as conservatives
- Gentrification that displaces African American and other poc communities is still largely spoken about by liberals as “bettering the community” “saving neighborhoods” “creating community” or “fostering multicultural communities” and applauded without a single thought to the economic, social, and psychic damage done to displaced black folks
- More black trans women are being killed now than in the past and less is being done about it even as gains in protections for trans communities are being won largely on the basis of murders of trans women of color
- police brutality against black women and girls continues to be documented on video and yet excused away by review boards
- and if listservs. livejournal, and blogs are any indication, the number of white people who believe that “racism” is a “slur” levied by black people to make “innocent” white people feel bad about themselves and not an actual indication that discrimination has occurred is any indication, the number of white people who feel immune to being called out for discrimination and absolved of ever being discriminatory is also on the rise
- That liberals, conservatives, and hipsters think racism is something they can joke about as if it is both a thing of the past and theirs to laugh at
So this juneteenth, I find myself not in the mood to celebrate the last black folks to be told they were in fact free and subsequently let out of bondage but rather musing on how long the white people in that Texas town kept black people enslaved despite 2.5 years of laws to the contrary because they could and neither their neighbors nor the nation was interested in making sure equality was upheld.
While I am grateful that black people in the U.S. are no longer enslaved (not counting black and ther poc “servants” trafficked here from other countries to clean elite people’s homes or serve as sex slaves), I am saddened by the fact that we are still not equal in this nation and that the spectre of segregation looms at every turn.