Juneteenth 2020: A reminder of unfinished business

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By: Rev. Aniedi Okure, OP, PhD

In 2020, we mark Juneteenth in the shadow of the callous chocking to death of George Floyd which is emblematic of a virus that has infested the fabric of our society, namely, the calculated and sustained systemic and structural devaluation of the lives of African Americans, grounded in the slavery ideology and perfected in the course of four hundred years.

Numerous examples confirm how deeply this virus is entrenched in the American psyche. We recall Charles Stuart who on October 23, 1989 shot and killed his seven-month pregnant wife to collect insurance money but blamed, and actually identified a “black man” for his own crime, Susan Leigh Smith who October 25, 1994 drowned her two sons, 3-year old Michael and 14 months old Alexander so she can be free to have a date but blamed a “black man” for her evil crime, and the police who shot an African American behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey, trying to calm an autistic patient in distress, and when asked why he shot the therapist responded “I don’t know.” I believe him. Indeed he does not know because he is acutely infected by the virus of systemic racism and is acting out of this malaise without being conscious of his illness.

We would be missing the core of the problem and would end up with superficial solutions by focusing only on the police. Racist ideology was intentionally and carefully crafted to paint people of African ancestry as less than human, dangerous and needing to be controlled and subjugated for their own good. It permeates our educational and justice systems, housing, health care, and every fabric of our services. Sadly, this evil was facilitated by co-opting select religious texts and over the centuries has fused with the psyche of “believers”. This why people of African ancestry especially men continue to be falsely accused, tried in a biased justice system that presumes their guilt, and imprisoned or killed for the crimes they know nothing about. Their only crime is that they are “black.”

The disjuncture between this evil ideology and the truth stares us in the face, poses a serious problem of cognitive dissonance among those badly infected with the virus of racism and is a contributing factor of the rising wave of racial tensions and violence against people of African ancestry. Unless we take a comprehensive approach to address this evil, it will pose a serious mental problem for the badly infected and people of African ancestry will continue to be victimized.

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