Sunday, June 19, 2022

Father's Day and Juneteenth

     As today was both Father's Day and Juneteenth, I thought I would be remiss if I didn't write something about it today. Those are my sons Adam and Jake, respectively. They were both born in the early 90s at a time when I confidently thought we were well past the point of racism and that it would only get better as time wore on.
     So, we celebrated today at the local Applebee's, the first time I'd had the boys together in at least two years. We caught up and talked about movies and comics and AI, the usual free-wheeling conversations my sons and I typically have considering their many talents and interests. Then, after lunch, my younger son, Jake, called for a Lyft. When the drive was about six minutes out, the driver suddenly cancelled. I asked my son why and he said, "When they see Nigga, they bail." 
     Apparently, when you download an Uber or Lyft app, you also have to provide an avatar so the driver will recognize you when they pull up. But apparently, Lyft allows its drivers to discriminate based on race and they can do this with impunity.
     And, yes, it's ironic this happened on Juneteenth, the recognized day when the word went out in Texas that slavery was abolished through the 13th Amendment. But therein hangs another tale.
     When these federal agents fanned out in 1865 and began spreading the word about abolition, some white people, principally slave owners, were not prepared to part ways with the old system. Some of them went back and told their slaves, who were supposed to be free by then, that the 13th amendment was no longer valid because Lincoln was dead.
     Some slave owners simply said nothing about the 13th amendment and went on for as long as they could under an old regime that no longer existed.
     So, my comfortable belief that the moral arc of the universe would continue bending toward justice turned out to be my white privilege showing. Far from Dr. King's moral arc bending ever further toward justice, it became a Mobius strip promising a return to Jim Crow under Trump and beyond. And now black people are getting openly lynched and largely without the perpetrators facing justice because the killers are often cops.
     We have holidays like Juneteenth to remind us not so much of what the past once represented but that that same past can come back with a vengeance. White racists don't like their kids and grandkids being taught about that sordid, shameful part of our history because it makes them feel uncomfortable. To which I reply, "Like your tee shirt says, fuck your feelings." 
     How uncomfortable was it for those slaves to wear chains constantly chafing their skin, or the sharp pain of the whip on their bare backs at the whipping post? How uncomfortable was the rope around their necks when they were lynched, often for nothing, or the hot sun beating down on their heads while they toiled in the cotton fields 16 hours a day?
     Juneteenth is supposed to make us feel uncomfortable with our past because the minute we get comfortable with that part of our past, then rights start to get rolled back.
     My sons can still enjoy a nice lunch with their Dad at an Applebee's or where ever they want. But it wasn't so long ago that they would've been barred from eating at a Woolworth's lunch counter. White people at Trump rallies refuse to condemn slavery. Some people are calling for the return of slavery. They don't want it taught in schools because they can't handle the shame of their ancestors' past actions.
     And black men get stranded outside of restaurants because racist cab drivers don't want to take a chance on picking them up.


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