Context: On the Saturday, June 18th, 2022, the city of Utica celebrated Juneteenth with a day early festivities at Chancellor Park. The 19th of June is celebrated as Juneteenth, which commemorates the day in 1865 when the word that slavery had been abolished finally reached Galveston, Texas. The long-running and well-attended yearly celebration in Utica dates back to the time when African American Heritage Day was observed in the park during the month of August. Celebration of the Sixteenth of June
The basic distinction between the plights of oppressors and those of the oppressed is one of the most significant issues in American history, and it is crucial for people of the United States to understand this distinction from a sociological and psychological point of view.
I was at a Filenes in the Boston area getting some Christmas shopping done at the very last minute (department store). It is not surprising that the shop was completely full up to the ceiling with people shopping for Christmas.
When I looked out the window, it appeared as though the snowflakes were floating in the air while they fell gently from the sky. While groups of carolers were singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” literally chestnuts were being roasted over an open fire by someone.
As I walked into the shop, the unadulterated merriment of Christmas had already filled every inch of my being.
Within the first five minutes of my browsing, I had the unsettling impression that someone was following me. When I turned down a particular aisle, a tall man dressed in a black pullover and brown boots appeared around the corner. My first idea was that perhaps we were looking for the same present.
After noticing the man arrive at the end of the fifth aisle in which I was shopping, I went up to him and inquired as to whether or not he was following me.
The individual said that he was working as a covert security guard and that he was being compensated to ensure that customers were not concealing gifts inside of their bulky parkas.
Consequently, I was standing there directly in front of the man when I came to the realisation that, out of the hundreds of people that were shopping in Filenes on Christmas Eve, he had singled me out as the most potential thief.
The very idea of it infuriated me to a degree that I had never experienced before in my life. I yelled at the man and informed him that he was completely missing the forest for the trees. In a matter of seconds, I was storming toward my car while simultaneously making a solemn oath to myself that I would never set foot in a Filenes store ever again.
My heart suddenly felt empty and contempt had taken its place where joy had been.
I told myself, “Hey, it’s the night before Christmas; forget about it, and go to a different store.”
Only I was unable to.
To be able to do that didn’t make me feel any more liberated than I already was. I will never forget gazing at my eyes in the rearview mirror and wondering what it must be like for folks who have to constantly check behind them whenever they go into a store or walk down the street. I will never forget that.
Imagine for a moment what it would be like to be looked at every day as though you were some kind of monster or criminal.
An epiphany that occurred to me while I was reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was the source of yet another valuable life lesson for me. When I was getting ready to teach the novel to a group of high school seniors, I had the sudden realisation that when I had read it myself in high school, I had somehow missed or skipped over what might have been the most important nuance of the text. At the time, I was preparing to teach the novel, so I thought back to when I had been in high school.
The fact that the monster is, at heart, essentially good and has an intense yearning to be held and cherished is the source of a profound irony regarding him. Despite this, the monster is shunned and disregarded by the person who was responsible for his creation from the moment he opened his eyes.
After being cast adrift, the monster saves the life of a young girl who was in danger of drowning. However, in spite of the monster’s inherent goodness, the girl’s father manages to shoot him and severely wound him.
Screams of horror and derision are the consistent responses to the appearance of the monster. Time and again.
The only person other than the monster who interacts with the blind man in a friendly manner is the blind man’s children, who eventually arrive on the scene and quickly drive the monster away.
The hour of reckoning has finally arrived for the monster:
The monstrous being, who was ruminating about his future while sitting in a shack at the peak of a mountain in the bitter cold, proclaimed:
“I shall seek revenge for the wrongs done to me. If I can’t make you love me, then you’ll have to fear me.”
Is it really so difficult for anyone to see how they might identify to the monster’s moment of truth when the circumstances are applied to the plights of oppressed people in the United States?
Therefore, it was a historical misunderstanding that Washington Commanders’ defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio manifested when he compared the looting and burning of stores during the Black Lives Matter protests to what he described euphemistically as a “dust up” at the United States Capital on January 6th. In other words, Jack Del Rio compared the looting and burning of stores during the Black Lives Matter protests to a “dust up” at the United States Capital.
The acts of violence that took place on each of these occasions could never, under any circumstances, be excused by a law-abiding citizen.
However, law-abiding persons need to be able to grasp the historical, psychological, and social roots of the violence that occurred on both instances — in order to know why the causes are not comparable to one another — in order to know how to prevent future acts of violence.
That is, having a knowledge of how drastically different life is in the United States of America for those who oppress others and those who are oppressed.
That is, having a knowledge of the plights of both those who are striving for superiority and those who are seeking equality.
The Commanders decided not to fire Jack Del Rio, which, in my opinion, prepared the stage for the most favourable ending that could have been imagined.
Instead, Ron Rivera, one of the five head coaches of colour in the NFL, fined Del Rio $100,000, not for exercising his first amendment right to free speech, but for being “a distraction to the team,” as Rivera put it. Ironically, this decision was made by one of the five head coaches of colour in the NFL.
Rivera asserted that the right to free expression belongs to each and every American, despite the fact that it frequently comes with a significant amount of responsibility and obligation.
Since then, Jack Del Rio has expressed his regret to the squad for the disruption that he caused, and he has invited all of his players to have candid conversations with him about the general tenor of what he had stated.
Ron Rivera, who has been engaged in multiple conversations with Del Rio himself, indicated that from everything that he has heard from the players — the conversations have been extremely pleasant and helpful. Ron Rivera has been engaging in numerous conversations with Del Rio himself.
These are the kinds of discussions that have the potential to open both parties’ minds and hearts to new ideas and perspectives.
In other words, these are the kinds of dialogues that have the potential to spark change.
“Light is the only thing that can drive out darkness; darkness cannot accomplish that to itself;
Hatred cannot overcome hatred; only love has the power to do that. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King
I hear Walt Whitman’s “America Singing” in my head.
I hear Christmas carols of many different kinds being sung in the United States.
Those who work in mechanics, each one singing his tune as blithely and robustly as it ought to be,
As he determines the length of his plank or beam, the carpenter sings his.
The song that the mason sings to himself as he gets ready for work or as he leaves work
The boatman singing on his boat what rightfully belonged to him, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The hatmaker sings while working on his hat, the shoemaker sings while sitting on his stool, and so on.
The song of the woodcutter and the ploughboy as they travel in the morning, during the intermission at lunch, or just before dusk,
The sweet singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the young girl making clothes or doing the laundry,
Each singing that which is uniquely theirs and is not belong to anyone else,
The things that belong to the day, during the day; at night, the party of young men who are vigorous and sociable.
Singing with their lips open, their powerful songs had a musical quality.
I Too is a poem written by Langston Hughes.
I, too, proclaim the praises of America!
I am the brother with the darker skin.
They make me eat in the kitchen against my will.
When there are guests present,
But I chuckle,
And eat healthily.
And continue to mature.
You can find me at the table.
When there are guests present.
Please tell me,
Eat in the kitchen, they told us.
They’ll be able to see how stunning I am.
And feel humiliated —
Even I am a part of America.
Freedom for all people in the United States of America may not be possible until the oppressors learn to feel empathy for the oppressed and the oppressed learn to feel a feeling of forgiveness for the oppressors. This is the only way that freedom can be attained.
In my perspective, there is no middle ground to be found.
To be able to empathise with another person, a person must first put themselves in a position where they are humiliated to the point that they can envision how they would feel if they were in a situation that was somewhat comparable to what they were in.
A situation that took place on Christmas Eve, over 30 years ago, was the catalyst for a transformation in both my life and the way I think about discrimination.