We Celebrate Juneteenth by Focusing on Voter Suppression, Mass incarceration, Redlining, Institutional Racism & a Call for Reparations from Ta-Nehesi Coates

After mulling what we have inherited from slavery, we ponder whether reparations should be on the table. No one articulates this perspective better than Coates, also a conversation with Allegra Love about the border crisis.

Retake Conversation: Allegra Love

We spoke with Allegra Love, founder and former Executive Director of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project and a fierce immigration advocate. We spoke for over 45 minutes about the crisis at the border, US immigration policy, its unnecessary reliance on incarceration and punishment, and how we can make immediate changes in policy that would not require legislation or Congressional approval. Allegra is so passionate about her work and we both wound up fighting back tears at one point. Listen up.

Juneteenth: A Reader on Why We All Should Celebrate the Freedom While Reflecting on What We Did & Still Do

Today, we celebrate Juneteenth. I must say, it is rather remarkable that Juneteenth was signed into law as a national holiday with a unanimous Senate vote, a national holiday. But simply creating a national holiday can’t address the manifestations of systemic racism that remain as vestiges of slavery. To have something authentic to celebrate, we must educate ourselves so that we can be effectively anti-racist and eradicate the systemic racism that underlies so many of our institutions.

Most fortunately, there are signs that America is waking up to this challenge. Black Lives Matter has continued to force the challenge. But for BLM to succeed and for black lives to truly matter, we all need to continue to educate ourselves and others and to connect the dots between various forms of oppression and the policies and leaders who support them, or abide them.

As noted in the quote below, emancipation was only the beginning for blacks and for whites.

“Emancipation was only the beginning. Those who had worn shackles became central political actors in a painfully brief flowering of democracy. Black men won the right to vote, in significant measure because so many had served with distinction in the Union Army. “The ballot and the bullet,” it was said, “go together.” Thanks to this movement, the “Second Founding” reflected in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments above all guaranteed the right to vote. Many nations ended slavery in the 19th century, but as historian Eric Foner points out, the United States was the only one that granted full citizenship and political rights so soon after emancipation. Black men voted in massive numbers, electing Black governors, members of Congress, and state legislators who wielded power throughout the South.’

But as quickly as the “Second Founding” emerged, it was eclipsed by former slaveholders and one by one a range of race-based policies emerged to control black people, punish black people, terrorize black people, and systematically suppress the voices of black people. These race based policies form the foundation of deeply entrenched systemic racism in our current criminal justice, health, housing, election, and even in our right to bear arms. So, today we ask that you celebrate, but before doing so, take some time to reflect upon what we have created and what we have yet to create.

Rather than a long post with excerpts from multiple sources, we offer links to a number of articles and video identified through a full day of online research. Take your time and if you have to take a break, please save this post and return to it, particularly the article and the last interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates where he lays out the rationale for reparations and what reparations could look like. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

What We Are Reading About Juneteenth

What We Viewed

Why All Americans Should Honor Juneteenth

This eight minute video depicts the history of slavery, emancipation, and Jim Crow from reconstruction to George Floyd. Very worth your time and be sure to check out the comments that flow below the video.

The History of White People in America

Not your classroom variety of history, but a pretty cool hip hop version that is only 5 minutes in length. As with the prior video, it is interesting to comb over the comments that follow.

On Reparations:
Mitch McConnell & Ta-Nehisi Coates

McConnell takes one minute to dismiss the idea of reparations and Ta-Nehisi Coates takes four to shred his position.

First Mitch McConnell

While McConnell’s comments are unfortunately and predictably obtuse, they offered a perfect launching for Coates comments to Congress that follow.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

While Ta-Nehisi Coastes’ response is excellent, the conversation that ensues is even more instructive. Must see viewing.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:
More on Reparations & America’s Culpability

To my mind, Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the world’s most articulate thinkers and this is as thoughtful a discussion of reparations as I have heard. If I was to retitle this interview, I would call it “Not Afraid to Look” as Coates looks unflinchingly at America today through the lens of 350 years of racist oppression. While that truth is hard to view, Coates is so articulate and the interviewer so skilled that the hour flies by. And stick around for the last few minutes, as Coates makes a comparison between reparations and climate change: most Americans don’t want to look at either as the impacts fall on others or in the future. And so we fiddle while Rome burns.

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: racial justice

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1 reply

  1. The Coates article is amazing even though it took me about 2 hrs to read and I kept being interrupted by offers to subscribe.
    Thanks for suggesting it, and for all you do. Yet he ends without a real suggestion for reparations. I think free college tuition and zero interest mortgages guaranteed by the US government may be equitable solutions.

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