June 19 marks the end of slavery in the Confederate states. Today, many Americans celebrate this day, known as Juneteenth.
While the 13th Amendment gave black Americans the right to vote, there would be countless challenges – from Jim Crow Laws to poll taxes – that attempted to restrict theses freedoms.
While the fight continues to protect those freedoms, Juneteenth commemorates the beginning of that progress towards equality. Although Juneteenth is not recognized as a national holiday, it was a turning point in our nation’s history – and an annual reminder of how the country once treated those yearning to breathe free who were not white.
This year, Juneteenth is remembered with a heavy heart. Social media is buzzing with #KeepFamiliesTogether in solidarity with the immigrant parents losing custody of their children while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
The number of harrowing stories of immigrants fleeing violence in their homelands only to lose their child at the hands of immigration agents has increased in response. Images of children in cages spread wildly online. Videos show large warehouses full of boys sleeping on the floor.
Several have made the historical connection of today’s horrors to the times of slavery and Native American relocation and re-education. Slaves were sold to different owners with no regards to family bonds. Native American children were taken from their tribes and sent to English-only schools in an attempt to sever their cultural connections and traditions.
“This is not who we are,” say many Americans, but the truth is, this is always what America was.
It’s simply harder to deny or plead ignorance when faced with the amount of evidence playing on 24-hour cable news and infinitely updating social media feeds. Even then, there are those who are downplaying the violence of ripping families apart.
One only need to remember Juneteenth to see the generations of pain caused by losing one’s family and culture, and the lasting cost of economic and personal disenfranchisement.