From June 19th, 2021: A Proclamation on Juneteenth

Juneteenth demonstration at the Washington Monument on June 19th, 1968.

The following text is an unedited transcript of an essay I spread on social media and published on June 19th, 2021. There are several grammatical errors (which are indicated with [sic]) that have been left alone to preserve the accuracy of the essay.

June 19th, 1865, exactly 156 years ago, today: the final enslaved peoples in Confederate territories* are freed as Union Major General Gordon Granger travels to Galveston, Texas, to oversee the emancipation of the enslaved peoples and a peaceful transition of power. This would not be the end of slavery, for slavery would exist for several more months in Union-sided slave states, and for another year in the lands of Natives who sided with the Confederates; however, the imminent end of slavery was upon us, and our country continued to progress toward finally following its creed. 

    Unfortunately, Juneteenth is but the end of a slavery, not the end of slavery. To this day, a different, yet similar slavery persists. It is not unpaid labor, and it is not the forced hell of slavery, but its crooked teeth still show their evil smiles in our modern nation. This slavery is the inescapability of the urban ghetto.

    A baby is born to a mother in the most systemically impoverished neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the most segregated and unequal city in the United States. Another baby is born to a mother in the most affluent neighborhood of Brookfield, Wisconsin: Milwaukee's (arguably) most affluent suburb.        These two children are exactly the same age with exactly the same intellectual and emotional abilities, but they will live very, very different lives.

    The suburban child has two parents, both with high-paying, full-time (as in 40 hours per week) jobs. Because the child's parents have the fortunate security of high-paying jobs, the child need never worry about there existing new food upon the table after school, he or she need not worry about there being not enough money for his or her sports and extracurriculars, and most importantly, the child need not worry about having to drop out of school to pay the bills, or even more so, having to avoid college because of its cost. The suburban child gets solid grades throughout high school (nothing exceptional, but a good average), and goes on to college, where the child goes into business with the hope of pursuing executive positions at large companies. The child follows in his or her parents' footsteps, traveling back to the affluent suburbs and raising another systematically advantaged family (not advantageous in ability, but advantageous in situation).

    The urban child is fortunate enough to have two parents. In the city, many have only one. Even so, money is tighter than tight, and both parents work 60-80 hours every week to keep food on the table. They live in an urban food desert, thus [sic] the child's mom must travel 6 miles, often either walking or taking the bus, to buy groceries, which have the potential of being stolen as she comes home. She has no choice, for she must provide for her family, even if that means taking on the risk of theft. The child's mother knows that those that steal from her are just as desperate as she, and thus she judges them not, for she knows that everyone would choose crime over starvation. The child's father wants to see his child escape the situation him and his wife could not, but he does not know how that will be possible; he works 60 hours a week for a check that is not enough for three people, and yet he must pay for all of the expensive items that come with a baby. He knows not how he can bring his child out of the desperate situation that is the ghetto, but he, of course, tries. When the child is young, he or she gets decent grades; again, they are not exceptional, but they are a good average. Even so, as the child enters high school, money stars to become tight. The father worked grueling work that unfortunately and inevitably injured him on the job. His injury would leave him jobless for at least a year, and thus money is tighter than it ever could be. The child's mother already works 80 hours per week to provide for the family, but that money is not enough (try living on $580 per week (excluding taxes) in a three-person household). As is not uncommon, the child must get a job to support his or her parents, and thus the child does. The child now works 60 hours a week and has no time to work on schoolwork, thus the child's grades drop, and drop. As a result of a systematic poverty, the child is destined to live a life similar to the child's parents, and thus none of them make it out of the ghetto. 

    The suburban child's parents see the situation simply down the road from them. As do many suburbanites, they attribute the plight of Milwaukee's ghettos to laziness and "thuggery." On the other "side," those facing the abhorrent situation of Milwaukee's ghettos see the suburbanites as oppressors, for they willingly ignore the toil of their fellow humans and blame them for their own poor situations. Both "sides" hate one another, but only one hates with reason. 

    I was fortunate enough to see the conditions of Milwaukee's ghettos secondhand, for I had friends and AAU teammates that detailed their own struggles to me with vivid detail. Some of my AAU teammates were very fortunate, for their own basketball travels gave them opportunities that almost no one facing the plight of the modern urban ghettos receives. Many of these teammates told me that basketball was their only escape, for basketball brought them scholarships to great high schools and the potential to go to college without paying the unnecessarily expensive costs attributed to it. Unfortunately, for some of my friends, this was not the case. They faced the same story as the "urban child" in this post, and are currently faced with that same persistent desperation. 

    I have had the advantage to have been born in the suburbs. I, along with many of you, was not faced with any of the struggles that some of my fellow brothers and sisters face, thus [sic] I can never relate to their toil, but I can understand their situation and work to fix it. It is our duty, as Americans, to make sure that our nation lives to the meaning of its creed: "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." We must ensure that these truths do become self-evident, and we must ensure that our country can be the [sic] model for diversity, empathy, and democracy.

    We must embrace love, not hate, and understanding, not intolerance. We must fight peacefully against the formidable terror of America's racism, and we must fight to bring truth to the message that all men are created equal. We must love our enemies, and urge our silent friends. We must reform a system that is broken against 38.5% of our country's people. As empathetic and emotional creatures, it is our duty to bring about love, progress, and charity, and it is our duty to ensure the welfare of all of our planet's, and our nation's, people, no matter their skin color.

* This does not include Union slaves and Native American-owned slaves. General Granger declared the enslaved people of Texas to be free, but by no means were they all freed. Many were still enslaved, even in the Union states of Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, until the passage and enforcement of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which declared slavery illegal (unless against an incarcerated person), forced the slaves free. It was not until later in 1866, actually, when a Confederate-allied Native tribe, the Choctaw, released their slaves.