I write on Juneteenth to honor slavery’s abolition and the movement for human rights.
If distracted from the evolution afoot by sadness over damaged Confederate statues, please consider actual history:
The Confederacy lasted four years (1861-1865). That’s 1.6% of our 244-year modern history. Owning people as property represents 36.5% of that same history.
Virginia hosts the most monuments, at least 223. They weren’t erected for “heroes” waging war to protect slavery. Many were built after abolition (from 1877–1964) as towering reminders to freed Black people that their oppression would continue.
Citizens have been peacefully requesting the removal of these wildly offensive statues for decades, with zero progress.
Furthermore, policing in the South began in 1704 as patrols hunting escaped slaves. After abolishment, these patrols morphed into formal police forces imposing Jim Crow laws. Black Americans were brutalized for “violating” minor infractions.
Adding insult to actual injury, the promise of “40 acres and a mule” for the 3.9 million formerly enslaved was never kept. The Southern coastline that was promised is worth a fortune today. Modern Black families were robbed of the tremendous generational prosperity that land ownership bestows.
We white Americans enjoy daily the fruits of ancestral Black Americans’ free labor, while living a false, sanitized narrative. The actual heroes who fought for peace, freedom and justice are more deserving of memorials. Let’s work together to uplift an inclusive history so the truth may, finally, set us all free.
It is a very nice notion for the governor to make Juneteenth a state holiday and to take down Confederate monuments. However, that’s extremely minor compared to the actual changes Black people and other people of color need, not only in Virginia, but in the United States as a whole. I have yet to hear the governor address actual reform toward policing and our justice system. No abolishing of “for-profit” prisons, no housing for homeless Virginians, no real reforms for workers’ rights, no free community college or trade schools, and small businesses (Black especially) are still suffering. The list goes on.
We want, nay, need to see real change, not more neoliberal pandering for our votes and going back to being ignored and taken for granted again. Gov. Ralph Northam and the other Virginia Democratic officials will have to do much more than that if they want our continued support. To do any less would be insulting at best.
Avanti Garedo, Virginia Beach
In March, the governor closed all schools in the commonwealth for the remainder of the school year. The idea of online learning was presented and quickly implemented. But almost immediately, concerns were raised about if and how students of low-income communities would gain access to online materials. These concerns can be most loudly heard in our very own Southeast community in Newport News. While efforts were raised to provide students with technology devices and Wi-Fi access, a significant portion of students were still left without these resources.
As schools begin to move toward reopening, I ask that the Newport News School Board and the city of Newport News take measures and find it in their budgets to make sure that all students in this city have the access to resources that will allow them to continue their education.
If you have similar concerns, please voice them by joining the Newport News chapter of Virginia Organizing for a Tele-Town Hall at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. We will be joined by Newport News Superintendent George Parker III and School Board Chairman Gary B. Hunter. They will be there to answer our questions and share their plans for our students moving forward. For more information, visit our Facebook page, Virginia Organizing Newport News.
Briana Jones, Newport News
Racial discrimination affects one’s life chances and the stress of contracting and dying from COVID-19. The stressors associated with being discriminated against on racial/ethnic issues affects mental and physical health. Mental health services should be readily available to those in need of therapy. Can you understand the impact on Black families affected by these three issues with no jobs, no resources and no home to go to because they cannot pay the rent? Picture, a Black family, the husband is looking for work, he may not return home because he was just killed by a white police officer.
Likewise, the impact of the pandemic that can be explained by social and economic stigmas, risks at work, inequalities in the prevalence of conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Many Blacks are dying because they cannot afford health insurance. Many white physicians close doors on low-income Black patients. Black doctors are needed. Our key issues: racism, health care and economic equality.
Recommendations for state and local leadership: act now against racism and inequalities against minorities. Each person must be valued and respected. There is no place in this world for historic racism, social inequalities or ending one’s life. We are counting on our leaders and legislators to act now! Individual’s dignity and self-respect is strengthened by the respect and affection of your neighbors. Let us live in peace and love for each other.
Lois S. Williams, Virginia Beach
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