Disclaimer: Keep in mind that myself and my family are white and live in an all black neighborhood. In many ways, even to this day, we are still learning about what it means to be white or black or rich or poor. My hope is that any confessions of my ignorance are in some small way are encouragement for the reader. Because, if I have lived where we do for 14 years and I am still in the process of moving away from ignorance, it is ok if you are too.
This article talks about how the NBA is celebrating Juneteenth.
Honestly, I can’t recall ever seeing Juneteenth in the news before. I’m sure it’s been there, but never like this. I wound have noticed if there as an article about Juneteenth on the top five or six news posts on ESPN like there was this morning. I should be clear from the start. I think this is great. I think this is progress. I think we are now a couple weeks into a sustained conversation about race relations and articles like the one above are signs that we are moving in the right direction.
My first experience with Juneteenth was during the summer of 2006, when we first moved into our house. It sucked. I think I went to Home Depot or was coming back from teaching summer school or something like that and got stuck on the wrong side of the parade route. I didn’t get why there was a parade and I had no idea one was coming. I literally had never even heard of the holiday. On June 20th and then every day after that I would give it little to no thought. Because I’m a selfish jerk, I would get annoyed about Juneteenth every year after the first one. It made the day to day logistics of my life more complicated. Eventually, I figured out I just had to stay home that day or only go out first thing in the morning. There were even a couple of years where we planned trips around Juneteenth because it was so hard to get around on the 19th of June.
I didn’t know what was being celebrated and I didn’t understand why I should care. I am still not totally sure about all the ins and outs of the holiday. I should know more, but I don’t. If I were to write down a thesis statement for this post, it might be it’s ok to be moving toward a place of decreased ignorance, but keep moving and be sure not to settle. Meg and I have been here a long time, and we don’t know everything. Sure, we know a lot about racial reconciliation. We have some perspectives that, at least for Milwaukee, are truly unique. We have daily interactions with “the neighborhood” that most people have once a year or possibly never at all. That doesn’t mean that we have arrived. That doesn’t mean we are authorities in anything. However, we can’t discount our experiences and the overwhelming amount of interactions that are unlike anything I experienced growing up in a suburb. I also wouldn’t discount anything that is new or different, as that could be seen as a sign of progress. It has been 25 days since George Floyd was murdered and each of those 25 days, the topic of racial reconciliation has competed for the top spot in the news with the Coronavirus. That has not happened in 14 years of living here.
We are about to go for a run/bike ride with the kids down to where a couple of Juneteenth activities are taking place. Ironically, it’s the first year we won’t be boxed in by a parade and it’s the first year as a family we are intentionally participating. It’s odd to say this, but that seems like progress for me too. We are all on a pathway to greater understanding or greater ignorance. The country as a whole seems to be moving away from the latter and more toward the former. I am proud of our family and looking forward to finally learning more about Juneteenth later this afternoon.