June 19, 2021- In the latter part of June, 1969, one of my fellow trainees, of African-American descent, confronted me about what he thought was my negative attitude towards people of colour. I had no ready answer for him, as truth be told, I had no attitude of any kind towards African-Americans, since until entering Basic Training, I did not know any. I believed then, as now, that all people are equal in the sight of God, and that therefore I was to show kindness and respect to Black people, as I did towards Whites and Asians, who were far more numerous in my hometown. What that meant, in practice, was far more complicated. I was to learn that the historical treatment, of all people of colour and of lower class Whites, was woeful in general and that each subgroup was treated in such a manner as made that group’s genetic memory needful of particular attention, distinct from other “minority” groups.
Lavern and I reached an understanding, and there was no further animosity between us. I continued to learn, from other men of colour, throughout my Army enlistment- and afterward, of the difficulties faced by their ancestors, and by they themselves, on a daily basis. Although it may be said that everyone has a hard life, at one time or another, most of those difficulties are transitory happenstance- a stock decline here, a broken down car there, a sick family member over yonder. They are no less problematic in the interim, but they are not compounded by the genetic memory of generations who were, and in many cases still are, excluded from equal treatment by society and by those in their midst.
So it is, that I welcome the national observance of Juneteenth-NOT as a replacement holiday for Independence Day, but as a day of affirmation of the principles upon this nation was founded. I have read much and learned much, about the abhorrent treatment of people of colour-and of lower class people of pallour, across the span of our nation’s, and other nations’ stories. I hope one and all are able to likewise reflect on the course of becoming more equal.