Tuesday, July 4, 2017

From June 19th to July 4th Independence Day

June 19th is an emotional day for many, because it is a reminder how much African Americans have sacrificed to get where they are today, and the injustices they are still facing today. June 19th known as "Juneteenth" symbolized the day that slavery was abolished. In Congress, it was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, and on January 31, 1865 by the House. That was only 152 years ago, so it begs the question if slavery ever ended when lynchings still occurred and white-black segregation existed until the 1960s. Additionally, enslavement is still in question considering there are more black men in prison now than there were enslaved in 1850. And if you don't think slavery and prison are connected--consider that the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime!

Furthermore, the prison population is disproportionately made up of innocent people who are imprisoned on suspicion alone. Many people are wrongfully convicted of crimes but wait years for their trial. Half of people are in prison for drug possession, but selling drugs shouldn't be a crime. Government-approved drugs get to be sold when they profit but street drugs are criminalized because the government doesn't get a cut--same with weapons. Many people are in prison for possession of a weapon (and some people die at the hands of cops even with a license to carry aka Philando Castile.) Having a gun or other weapon in your possession will either get you killed or get you locked up if you're black or brown, but if you're a white cop or white soldier, then you can kill, beat, rape, torture, and get away with it everyday.

June 19th is a signal of how July 4th Independence Day is only for the independence of white America. July 4th Independence Day refers to a select few Americans declaring their own nation from the British. The majority of Americans were obviously omitted from the The Declaration of Independence as having any rights like Indigenous Americans, African Americans, and women. Interestingly, four days after the Declaration of Independence was read on a balcony in Boston, the "Boston Committee of Correspondence ordered the townsmen to show up on the Common for a military draft. The rich, it turned out, could avoid the draft by paying for substitutes; the poor had to serve" (Zinn, p. 75.) The New Deal programs came after factory workers were on strike everyday for years and hundreds of strikes occurred during the Great Depression, and although the New Deal programs didn't apply to African Americans or women (despite African Americans and women working no matter who says they didn't work), people became pacified by the New Deal program and the military work. For instance, the New Deal reduced unemployment from 13 to 9 million; and World War II created millions of new jobs for better wages and benefits. It was a tactic, of course, which was to illicit patriotism and make it harder for people to mobilize against corporations as they had been doing.

The Declaration of Independence is like the Bible in the way that people pick and choose what they like and forget about the bad stuff that's in it. God and guns has always ran this country even though we have been told that church and state is separate. This has never been true, and the only thing that has been separate is the fact that churches don't pay taxes. Schools and education, the military, rehab, the pledge of Allegiance, money-- all have elements of religion. And guns is fetishized and romanticized in ways that people want to connect weapons to heroism, patriotism, and masculinity. But going back to the history of the U.S. Constitution and guns: Philando Castile was not protected under the 2nd Amendment although he had a license for a gun and told the officer he was in possession of a gun. From this perspective and many other stories of Black gun-owners, the 2nd Amendment only applies to protect the White gun owner, the white police officer, the white soldier.

There is a quote from the Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 by a Harlem bookseller Lewis H. Michaux: "The white man that landed here, he came with two great weapons. One is the Bible and the other was the gun. If it didn't humble you with the Bible, it'd crumble you with the gun." That isn't to say that believing in a god or a bible or any religion and religious text is wrong, nor is it a statement about guns or a weapon being wrong. But historically, religion and weapons have been used by Presidents who have always justified war by creating a language of 'us vs. them'-- discriminating, killing, or assimilating groups of people that didn't look, act, or think like them. Even Christopher Columbus justified the genocide of Indigenous people because of his religion and weapons, but Americans still celebrate this man because they don't know history.

That is our history that we still live with and that history has been carried on. Knowing the history of America helps to put the present state of our politics and culture into perspective. Knowing our history can help us change to create a world of peace and justice moving forward.

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