WASHINGTON — The Japanese American Citizens League released the following statement on June 19.
On June 19, 1865, over two years after President Lincoln declared all enslaved persons free, Major General Gordon Granger and Union Army troops marched to Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free the last enslaved Black Americans in Texas. In the years since, Juneteenth has become a day of celebration, resilience, and cultural pride for many Black Americans.
Now, with a federal holiday to mark this date for all Americans, it is a day of reflection of our country’s dark past, how far we’ve come, and have left to go.
Our reflection must not be limited to this one day.
We must be committed to rooting out systemic racism and anti-Blackness that pervades our society.
We must honor the inalienable contributions of Black Americans to every facet of our country’s modernity.
We must not forget enslavement was a notion created against African people by distinct European nation states, which America descended its foundation and wealth from.
We cannot forget the ongoing legacy of white supremacy correlated to the systematic killings of Black lives, the disenfranchisement of Black communities, and the repression of Black wealth and opportunity.
The progress we “celebrate” is tempered by the acknowledgement that as a community in solidarity, there is a lot of work to be done. We must think with radical imagination around community-led processes, in which all methods of repair should be considered from every angle and locality in our country.
The trauma and harm inflicted upon Black Americans as a direct result of our country’s legacy of slavery can never fully be accounted for. We see today remnants of our country’s history of slavery and long-standing anti-Black discrimination in forms of exclusion and disenfranchisement.
To right a wrong as inhumane and hateful as the legacy of slavery requires an ongoing commitment from all Americans to confront the very ideologies and systems that benefit from the oppression of Black Americans, and a consistent effort to develop and support reparations.
JACL calls for the consideration and passage of legislation including H.R. 40, H.Res. 414, and H.Con.Res. 44. These bills work towards the goal of achieving full understanding and accountability for our government’s complicity in the original sin of slavery, and the institutions that have worked to continue the subjugation of Black men and women and provide a means for seeking to remedy these wrongs, providing reparations.
In fact, this year, even as we remember 35 years ago the successful fight for redress for the Japanese American community, we recognize another 35 years passing without recognition from our government for the need to provide Black reparations.
Juneteenth offers us a day to remind us that the work we must undertake in addressing our country’s shameful past and to repair the damages inflicted upon our country is far from over. We invite you to consider ways to engage and support this vital movement toward healing and restoration for the good of our nation.