A Quick Note on Juneteenth 2022

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Happy Juneteenth & Father’s Day weekend!

Hello family, friends, and neighbors;

While we all may celebrate in different ways, here’s a pitch for a little bit of reading, especially for those with the extra day off:

The Case for Reparations, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/  , 2014, theatlantic.com .

While this article is from 2014; I actually only read for the first time last year. Summary:  It isn’t arguing for reparations itself. Rather, it  makes an extremely strong case for us to discuss the *idea* of  reparations in Congress, together as a nation. Very convincing. I’ve included a few quotes below.

If you’re busy, skip the rest; but if you want to read on, or need some motivation to read the article, great!

Like a fraction of you, I’m not even from this continent. There were so few Africans (of any origin) in Hawaii, and we were so far away from the mainland, we prioritized Asian and Island history. Makes sense. And today, according to the 2020 Census, African Americans (including mixed) only account for 14.2% of the population. So I might have said in my late teens, having barely left the island, “Nobody today is a slave or slave-owner, nor were their immediate parents, so who cares?”

But the more we learn about the historic threads connecting ancient history to the present, the more this becomes obvious:

“More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders.”

Similarly, regarding Germany’s reparations to the Jews:

“Reparations could not make up for the murder perpetrated by the Nazis. But they did launch Germany’s reckoning with itself, and perhaps provided a road map for how a great civilization might make itself worthy of the name.”

And again, neither the article nor HR 40 are arguing for payment in fact or concept — merely to debate the idea in Congress. Final quote:

“John Conyers’s HR 40 is the vehicle for that hearing. No one can know what would come out of such a debate. Perhaps no number can fully capture the multi-century plunder of black people in America. Perhaps the number is so large that it can’t be imagined, let alone calculated and dispensed. But I believe that wrestling publicly with these questions matters as much as—if not more than—the specific answers that might be produced. An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future.”

None of us were involved, and most of us, in most of our lives — at least to my knowledge — have not spent much time in explicitly anti-black* areas. But these ideas are not about us as individuals, or even about most of the living today. The policies and cultural phenomena around the country at the very least warrant study and investigation. The idea here is that as a collective nation — which most of us were merely born into by the luck of the universe! — we move past the history of slavery to finally put it behind us. It was a long time ago, but it haunts us still.

Hopefully the new** holiday helps us mature as a nation.

If interested further, you can read the text of HR40 here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/40 .

Cheers and enjoy the weekend!

–John Fial

*That’s a little more clear than the word “racis(t/ism)”, because that term can be of any race against another.

**New for me, not new for many!