This holiday is a celebration of the awareness of something that was hidden, the celebration of a realization we have more rights than we had ever enjoyed. Those rights were made possible by powerful documents intended to empower our oppressors. The freedom that had been given by the rule of law was hidden by a culture that revealed only what it wanted known. And as people in the 21st-century, many of our rights and liberties continue to be stolen or surrendered because of a lack of knowledge and resources.
This people continue to be destroyed for lack of knowledge. A free people with full-citizenship continued to live in a state and which they cannot experience true liberty and tranquility. Many of our people still live in the same reality as those Texas residents in 1865. However today it is not limited to one state. We live in the same condition today because the law has provided freedoms and protections of which we have no knowledge or access.
The Juneteenth celebration in 2023 should be a commitment to demand that the United States Government guarantees equality of access to freedom justice and equality. When we can acknowledge that America has never promised to offer anything more, there should be no legitimate reason for refusal.
How do we do this? We must realize and acknowledge the greatest continuing injustice to black people is allowing the tricks, tactics, misuse and abuse of the law to be used against us. The single most powerful tool against black people obtaining justice in the 21st-century is the financial resources for competent legal representation.
Sometimes righteousness allows justice to seep through the cracks of injustice. The most amazing thing about the Ahmaud Arbery case was not the fact that there was a guilty verdict, or that there was a trial. The most amazing event was that there was an arrest! Sometime even privilege, friends and culture is not enough.
Clearly some things have improved. But know this is the exception and not the rule! There was a time when simply having white skin allowed a person to take someone’s life, freedom, or property without facing serious questioning. At that time all he needed was white skin, although friends, connections and a little bit of money helped, but they were not required.
However, today, for almost any unanswered racist act, one needs not only white skin but also good connections, influence, and a significant amount of money. In most areas today the boys from the trailer park has to treat you with at least a minimum amount of respect. If not they might get in a little bit of trouble. But be assured the more friends, influence and money a white man has the less likely you are to have any shot at justice.
Especially if there was not a camera present.
Can this Juneteenth help us realize a renewed dream? A closer look reveals we don’t need a new dream just a consistent continuation of the original. It appears that we have allowed complacency and politics to pause the realization of the dream. It is time for black people in America to take the dream off pause. And we should not delay by using the excuse that white people hit the pause button. Martin is likely gazing in disbelief at our singing, dancing, cussing and fussing just beyond the gate of the promise.
He looked over just to get a glimpse of where God wants to take this people! His vision did not change the trajectory of America, just the people who would be its greatest beneficiaries. It is in our power to realize an America first reality with righteous people of color having access and authority in every sphere of American life.
We have benefited from many of the things God has given through His visionary Dr. Martin Luther King. We can’t lose sight of the fact we must continue to go forward. And we must realize that our marching ground and marching orders have changed.
Let us remember that we’ve always had to challenge the system while challenging ourselves.
Have we forgotten how to challenge ourselves? We must possess the ability to support others with love while vigorously challenging and holding accountable those among us who have access and opportunity to uplift and liberate our people.
We must refuse to support people who always have the ability to make us angry, to make themselves rich, but never have the ability to make a difference.
Painful tears must stream from Martin’s eyes as he watches our leaders celebrate the backward marching of our people. Why the rioting, looting, burning down our neighborhoods in spite of all God is doing?
Many of those fighting against us in the past wore white hoods and hid behind burning crosses. Today they have on 3-piece suits and wear robes and badges. They have skillfully used wealth, privilege, and the law to defeat us in the past. Today we must realize we have the ability to collectively create wealth and realize the law can be changed, and we have the power to change it. If only we could realize there is no greater privilege than accepting and receiving the inheritance God is calling us to in America.
Racism is alive and well in America today! Racism is still very pervasive but not quite as obvious.
But if we claim America has not made any progress toward racial equality, that would be dishonest and denying the blessings God has delivered on our way to our inheritance of life and liberty.
Dr. King warned us to never let anyone pull us so low as to hate. We cannot hate just because we have been hated. Choosing not to hate does not imply that we must blindly trust. Let us honestly acknowledge that not all white people harbor hatred toward black people. Let us be resilient and discerning enough to allow some white people to help in our work for equality. But only those willing to allow us to chart the course without being subservient to an organization they control can truly be trusted.
We would do well to rethink the concept of white privilege as it is currently perceived by many of our people. We must not allow others to program our thinking and emotions. We must stop believing the only thing white people have to do is to wake up in the morning and they will have a happy rich trouble-free life. That is a mindset of ignorance and weakness, playing on our pain and frustration.
This is a mindset of weakness because it does not allow us to capitalize on the needs weaknesses and emotions of white people as they capitalize on ours. But we must not underestimate the perception of many of those on the far right that firmly reject any notion of the struggle of black people. And fully deny any privilege by white people in America. These also are mindsets of ignorance based in frustration.
Let us consider the possibility that both black people and white people have created blind spots of ignorance that let them hide from painful uncomfortable truth. It is good that in the 21st century some white people are willing to admit there are often benefits to having white skin. They may believe the only white people that take advantage of privilege are those who are racist. And they are totally convinced that they themselves are not racist.
They may then believe they are not affected by the problem and they do not affect the problem. But worse yet is the fact some black people believe white people are the total problem and have total responsibility to fix our problems. They believe only white people can change our condition.
This misperception on the part of black people may be the biggest obstacle to our elevation and receiving our inheritance of true equality. The idea that we must look to white people as the only solution to our problems may be our biggest problem. Maybe we have looked too long at a Jesus with blue eyes and blonde hair.
The existence of Jesus is a historical fact. The reality of Jesus will be spiritually known by those who are in relationship with Him. Jesus was and is real, but Jesus never had blonde hair and blue eyes or white skin, this too is a historical fact.
Remember the reality of racism and white supremacy today would look very different than the past. Very little of today’s racism is blatantly overt. Racism in the 21st-century often becomes evident only when it is triggered. Racism and white supremacy are also terms that have been hijacked in the 21st-century, but that’s a lesson for another day. Before we go deeper into the challenges of racial reconciliation we must acknowledge something.
We must acknowledge that if we address every racial challenge presented by people or systems without addressing our internal challenges, we cannot inherit the promise of equality. Racism and white supremacy exist today, but they are not our biggest problem. Our biggest problem is allowing racist and white supremacists to keep us divided on our march to the promise.
We will never have the power to eliminate racism or white supremacy. But we do have the ability to render them powerless over our lives. In order to do this, we must be willing to do two things.
First, we must be willing to stand, and next, we must be willing to stand together.
This has been hard for us, but it is important that we get it right. Standing up against what appears to be systematic racism is not nearly as hard as standing against the systematic programming on how we should respond to racism.
We must change our programmed response to white people, from wanting revenge for the past to creating realities of freedom for our present and future.
The abuse of good systems has been misused against us. But it is a mistake to think that the very system is against us. God has allowed some systems that have been used against us, but from the foundation, these were created to be tools in our eventual rise to equality.
They can and should be tools used to bring us into a place of power and true freedom.
The United States Constitution is one of those tools. We would do well to move away from the notion that these foundational documents can only be used to our detriment. We must reject the programming that only allows us to see them as racist! Yes, we can acknowledge that many racist people have been able to interpret them, bend them, and twist them for a long time. But God has put at their very core the foundational keys that He has planned as part of our inheritance.
Many of those who are not people of color will celebrate our ability to demonstrate the power of the promises in these documents. And we must not allow the programming of the past to cause us to make enemies of natural allies. We must resist the temptation to make statements like all white people are overtly racist. We must resist the temptation to label individuals that don’t agree as white supremacists. We must totally reject and destroy any effort to teach white children that they are evil because they have white skin. No self-respecting people will sit by while you destroy the mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of their children. And no righteous people given influence would want to do such an evil.
So how do we deal with real racism? We attack the weaknesses in systems that have been tweaked, bent, and abused to the detriment of black people. We educate those desiring not to be a part of the past. They should identify attempts to recruit them to subtle injustices just because they have the power or opportunity to do so. Help them understand the difference between taking advantage of an opportunity and taking advantage of a person or group whose race or resources render them vulnerable. We must understand and help them understand today most racist acts are triggered. Often they are triggered by well-meaning unsuspecting people in situations or circumstances that may initially appear to have nothing to do with race.
We should begin immediately to address those systems most susceptible to abuse. The systems that are most often abused to the detriment of our people are the legal system and the financial system. We are more likely to realize this in one half of our legal system. Not that it only happens in half of our legal system, we're just more likely to see the criminal injustice than the civil abuses. How much more likely are black people to be sued in America? Sometimes we think if we don’t have much to take we won’t be sued. But if we consider the types of suits most often filed against people of color, we will see a willingness to take what you have even if you don’t have much. The inability and unwillingness to fight makes this a profitable target.
Remember repossessions, evictions, foreclosures are all forms of civil actions filed in court.
When evil people lose the ability to lynch people in the street, they will try to lynch them in the courts.
This is not to say that all civil actions are evil. But these actions can often be abusive, unjust, and even predatory. I believe the best use of our energy and this time would be to demand immediate action to stop the abuse of our people by allowing the utilization of money and privilege to abuse our justice system.
It has been said that some of the white people willing to acknowledge these truths may be experiencing something called white guilt. We don't need white people to be ashamed of the color of their skin.
Just be aware not to be part of actions designed to result in detrimental outcomes for black people.
This happens when systems are tweaked, bent, manipulated, or abused to take advantage of people of color.
We are all aware that a black man is more likely to get arrested! But do we realize that he is also more likely to get sued, to get evicted, to have a repossession, or to have his wages or property seized?
But we can no longer just be angry and accept this as reality. We must look honestly at the causes and take action. These are things that we can and should change. But we have to start to change them by using the tools required to change them. We must understand most systems in America are not inherently racist.
But again, our justice system has been used and abused more than anything to destroy and take away our liberty, wealth, and self-respect.
This is not about reparations for the wrongs of the past. This is addressing wrongs that continue to hurt our people. I am sure the work for reparations will continue. But we must not be tricked into believing that 400 years of continuing abuse can be compensated with a single transaction. We do acknowledge that things have gotten better. We are grateful to God and to those who have not stood in the way of our progress.
But we pray for intelligent and righteous black leadership that will lead us as we pursue true equality and justice. This leadership is not looking for equality of outcomes in America for people of color. But will not accept the lie that black people currently have equal access to justice in a justice system that has been used and abused to our continuous detriment.
Many of the processes and procedures need to be challenged and revised. There should be no limits on efforts to support true equality and racial reconciliation. A great place to start would be providing people of color a guarantee of competent legal counsel.
No honest person in America, black or white, can deny that black people have suffered from this system. Our government could begin real racial reconciliation by guaranteeing to provide up to $3,000,000 in top-tier legal defense for any person of color named as a defendant in any criminal or civil case in America. This should be available to any person of color with a net worth of less than $3,000,000.
This would definitely not be an attempt to create and enrich more black attorneys. Simply increasing the number of black lawyers may yield similar results as increasing the number of black police officers in Tennessee. There must be resources, but there must also be oversight and competence reviews.
If we move no further on this Juneteenth celebration, let us move beyond trying to make white people our saviors. Dr. King was privileged to get to the mountaintop and look over. He was also privileged to see our access to the promises found in Scripture and our founding documents.
We must move forward powerfully and peacefully to inherit the promise.
C. Wayne Bryant, the pastor of Agape Bible Church Covington Georgia.