“Juneteenth Reflection” by Fred Peterbark, CCPA’s Assistant Dean of Enrollment Management and Student Services
As we commemorate Juneteenth, my heart reflects upon this spiritual (My Lord, What a Morning) and Watchnight services of New Year’s Eve, which began as many slaves were said to have gathered in churches on New Year’s Eve, in 1862, to await news and confirmation of the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, on January 1, 1863. And yet it took two and a half years for the full enforcement of that proclamation. There seems to have been a delay in every step forward since.
It is as if the 13th Amendment was the only way to get full enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation because it abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, EXCEPT as a punishment for a crime. What I understand now, having understood so many examples of both the past and the present, is that the United States has tried to “make everyone happy” in their responses to the initial and aftereffects of slavery. There is a desire by many to find a “zero-sum gain” solution. But I would and many Black people would argue that that is a “negative-sum gain” for Black people, because slave owners were compensated for their losses when slavery was abolished. In addition, Price discrimination was found throughout the Jim Crowe Era (1877-1950s) not only in goods but in wages, loans, and education.
Today, we continue to learn how slavery and involuntary servitude have continued in the judicial system (e.g. “Cash for Kids”, sentencing disparity, and sentencing discrimination). The scale is unbalanced, so a “zero-sum gain” solution leaves an unbalanced scale unbalanced. Personally, I think many people are worried about how they might perform in an even race. Would they still be at the front, middle, or back of the pack? This is the equity (not equality) that people are protesting for. This is the equity that is desired in the phrase “Black Lives Matter”. Yes, All Lives Matter, but one group in that “ALL” have been significantly injured, discriminated against, and prevented from realizing the equity of the phrase “All Lives Matter.”
More about the author: Assistant Dean for Enrollment Management and Student Services for the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, Fred Peterbark is a native of Springfield, Virginia. He holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Michigan, along with a Teacher’s Certificate for grades K-12. Read more about Dean Peterbark on his Roosevelt University profile.