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As Some Seek to Conceal the History of Slavery, What to the White Man is June 19th?

According to the Library of Congress, this is an escaped slave named Gordon, also known as "Whipped Peter," showing his scarred back at a medical examination in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. PHOTO: Library of Congress NEWS ANALYSIS

Just for the Record

It was in the Dred Scott Decision issued on March 6, 1857, that Chief Justice Roger Taney of the U. S. Supreme Court solidified the viciously racist lens through which many White Americans historically viewed Black people: He said, “[Black people] had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it.”

Because enslaved people were viewed as nothing more than merchandise, they were not only tortured by whippings, lynching, castrations, and burnings alive, but these cruelties were often documented in photographs with White men, women and children standing smugly and smiling beside their maimed bodies.

The perpetrators even joyously shared their depravities by making the pictures into postcards that they mailed to friends and associates around the country, as displayed in the book, “Without Sanctuary.”

Centuries later, as leaders of states such as Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida attempt to hide the evils perpetrated against Black people during and since enslavement, upon Juneteenth, 2023, the clearest evidence of the evils of racism and White supremacy is what they themselves and historians documented in Supreme Court decisions, on post cards in photographs on signs such “Negroes for Sale” and in history books.

These are the reasons that the national Juneteenth celebration of freedom is so very bittersweet. Although America has experienced its first Black president, its first Black vice president, its first Black attorney general and Blacks on the U. S. Supreme Court, the nation has yet to fully recognize the evils of slavery and the affects the shameful institution still has on the people of this nation – Black and White.

And so, just as Frederick Douglass asked the famous question in 1852, “What to the slave is your Fourth of July?”, the question must now be asked and answered, “What to the White man is June 19th? Of course, not all White people are to blame for the evils of enslavement. And yet, those who remain silent as others such as DeSantis continue their assault on truth, are just as guilty as those who avert their eyes as the spirit of those evils and the deeds perpetrated by those evils remain rampant.

So, in as much as Juneteenth – in a nutshell - celebrates the victory of freedom won largely by Black Union soldiers over Confederates who fought to maintain slavery, the question must continuously be asked, What now to the White man is June 19th? The following are a few answers to be considered.

It is an opportunity for those who have consciously or unconsciously averted their eyes, to wake up and join the celebration of freedom; It is an opportunity for them to teach their children the truth about enslavement of Black people and about the fight for freedom. It is a day for racists and White supremacists to repent of their ways and to forever join an army for justice. And, as stated by President Joseph Biden, who declared the day a federal holiday, it is a season to “ breathe new life into the very essence of America — to make sure all Americans feel the power of this day and the progress we can make as a country; to choose love over hate, unity over disunion, and progress over retreat. Choosing to remember history, not erase it; to read books, not ban them - no matter how hard some people try.”

Just for the Record is a periodic column by Trice Edney News Wire publisher, Hazel Trice Edney.


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