Juneteenth (Man Has Only Those Rights Which He Can Defend)

Wouldn't it be great to be able to play the role of a self-righteous district attorney, where you get to pronounce lofty phrases like the one above on a weekly basis? And what does rhetoric like that have in common with Juneteenth, anyway?

Juneteenth - for the uninitiated - is the day in which African-Americans commemorate our Independence Day. The fourth of July not being a day we choose to recall with the same pomp and pageantry, as from 1776 until the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, this declaration, which white folks hold so dear had no meaning for us. But do not take my word for it, the US Supreme Court said so in the Dred Scott case; that a Black person had no rights which the US government need recognize. Perhaps someone should inform mister strict constructionist, Clarence Thomas, that a strict reading of the intent of the founding fathers would mean he would be beaten daily for the temerity he has shown by learning to read.

19 June 1865 is the day that Union soldiers entered Galveston, Texas and informed the Black population of the area about the Emancipation Proclaimation - the somewhat less grand than its title implies document President Lincoln pronounced that manumitted all of the slaves in territory he no longer controlled (oh, so laws like the USA PATRIOT Act have a historical precendent in their hollowness?). Of course, this makes Juneteenth a somewhat less than complete independence day celebration, as all of the slaves in territory Lincoln did controlled were not freed until the aforementioned amendments to the US Constitution were passed, but if anyone is used to celebrating hollow victories, it is us.

For those who cannot see the implications of not knowing you are free until the agents of those who have enslaved you come to tell you and the opening quote from the lead prosecuting attorney on "Law and Order", let me make things clear: what rights can African-Americans claim to have when we have no ability to defend ourselves? How can we claim to be free when our "freedom" was handed to us by a President we did not elect and by soldiers who were merely "following orders"; what shall we do when those orders change? Place the shackles back on our own feet?

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