I wanted to send some words of encouragement toward a day of celebration, remembrance, and action.
Juneteenth is a celebration of the day in 1865 when the joyous news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the extent of America. It’s an important day to remember, honor and celebrate.
However, It is not a "day off" for me or our staff, it's definitely a "day on". Meaning, if we've learned anything in the last few weeks of 2020, it's that 155 years later, collectively as a nation we haven't said enough in support of anti-racism, we haven't done enough in support of anti-racism, and we need to persist going forward, reminding each other that we have a lot of work ahead of us.
Embrace, Celebrate and Educate
For me, this is a time to embrace any discomfort we might feel around this topic, celebrate and explore our differences, and along with my fellow white Americans, do the hardest work of all: educate. Educate those who don't understand what systemic racism is. Educate those who don't understand what privilege is. Great educators are required to have an incredible amount of empathy; educating ourselves and others about racism requires an even more open heart, because of its direct ties to our beliefs about right and wrong. If we truly believe in a future where differences in race are only celebrated, we have to be vigilant, we have to learn, we have to act, and we have to educate. To do this, we have to seek out and invite dialog.
As a privileged straight white male, my claim is not that I have done enough; on the contrary. I also don’t claim to hold the esteemed rank of educator, only that I’m fortunate enough to know a lot of great ones, and have had the good fortune to experience their incredible influence and impact.
When I was in sixth grade I took an offer from my teacher to enter a debate with another student on the topic of slavery, arguing against it. We were given ample time to prepare. I didn’t think I had to prepare or do work, I thought that simply being on the moral high-ground was enough. When my opponent (who was inexplicably well prepared to argue finer points) defeated me, I learned that simply being on the moral high ground, and expecting others to agree and share my views about right and wrong is a huge mistake. I learned that earnest emotional entreaties were not enough to win against entrenched, instilled and prepared arguments, regardless of how misinformed they were, or how much they lacked integrity.
So, I will offer the following invitations
- If you, dear reader, are white, and are put off by the suggestion that you are privileged: with hope, respect and an open heart, I invite you to learn more about the concept, because you misunderstand it. Watch Franchesca Ramsey’s short video.
- If you aren’t sure if systemic racism exists: again, with hope, respect and an open heart, I invite you to learn, because it’s not up for debate. Watch Race Forward’s great short videos here, or read about it in detail on Wikipedia here.
- If you think nothing can be done to end racism: I’ll invite you to learn about how it has been done by heroes having incredible amounts of respect, and gigantic open hearts. Watch this short video Daryl Davis, a Black American man talks about how he approached Roger Kelly, an Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) with curiosity, respect and openness, which ultimately resulted in Mr. Kelly leaving the KKK and sending his robe and hood to Mr. Davis.
- If you think Juneteenth marks a wonderful, historic day in American history: I’ll invite you to join me toward educating others, and send out the three points above to your social media networks.
Besides this post and our recently announced monthly full-ride scholarships for Black Americans which can be applied for here, the Code Fellows community will be celebrating Juneteenth at 3pm with an event that will start with the traditional reading of the Emancipation Proclamation and continue with anyone who wants to share their favorite short work by Black authors, poets, or artists. Please also join Code Fellows in ordering food from Black-owned Seattle restaurants. Here are a few suggestions for where to order from:
- Central Cafe and Juice Bar
- The Comfort Zone
- Island Soul
- Jones Barbeque
- King Philly
- Simply Soulful
- Taste of the Caribbean
- Find Black-owned establishments near you
To paraphrase one of my favorite educators Brook Riggio, I strongly believe that infusing the beautiful breadth of humanity more into each other’s lives will result in stronger communities and better futures for all.
- Jeff Malek, Code Fellows CEO, for Juneteenth 2020