I WOKE UP early. Brushed my teeth. Did my hair. Put the last bit of luggage in my car. My dad had already left for work. Mom was awake to say goodbye while my sister was half asleep and gave me a tired kiss. I was on my way back to Dallas because I had a couple job interviews lined up. I wove to my mom and honked the horn of my car as I drove down the road.
My family lives in a rural area of Central Texas and there are lots of fields and trees. I must admit, moving from the San Francisco Bay Area in California to rural Texas was a drag at first. But being a Midwest baby, I couldn’t help but appreciate the land. As I was driving along a back-country road, I came upon a cotton field. Now the sun was up but it was low enough where there was still a bit of shade on the field. The taller pieces of cotton were lined with sunshine. I pulled over to take some photos — I can’t miss a good lighting opportunity. But there was something soulful about this field in particular. Rows and rows of cotton. I tried different angles. Zoomed in. Zoomed out. Either the sun rose quickly or I was there longer than I thought. The field became lit. But as I kept taking photos, I felt something sinister about this sun kissed field.
It was silent. No cars going by. Nothing. Just me standing at the edge of this cotton field. Well, except for an oil well that was pumping in the distance. The wind was soft and all was quiet. I felt as if something was familiar about this field. As if maybe I had been there before. I felt a gentle pull. Like something calling me. Trying to tell me something. Trying to show me something. So I stood quiet. And I gazed at this field. I began to see people hunched over. Slaves filling the rows of cotton in front of me. They all looked down. Never looked up. I started taking photos again. I just felt compelled to do so. Perhaps my imagination was running. Or maybe this area — this field — was once harvested through slave labor. And maybe some of them were my undocumented ancestors. Maybe not but I felt a strong connection. I felt as if God was reminding me of the troubles they endured. Reminding me that He delivered them from great evil. And that nothing is too difficult for Him. To always believe in Him — the God who does not forget about the oppressed. Who is a refuge for the persecuted.
“I felt as if God was reminding me of the troubles they endured. Reminding me that He delivered them from great evil.”
Today marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. Despite the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, word was slow to spread. Juneteenth is pivotal because it commemorates the abolition of slavery of the last groups of thousands of slaves being held. On June 19th, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, Union General Gordon Granger issued the orders that officially set them free. Until this time, slavery continued — especially within rural areas of the Confederacy — although it was abolished two years prior. But even after, there were mob lynchings, Jim Crow and mass incarcerations. Then the death penalty. Even today, with the killings of innocent children of color. Ahmaud Arbery couldn’t even go for a jog without being a victim of a ruthless and evil hate crime. And this crime happened months ago but it didn’t become more widely known until recently. Arrests weren’t made until recently. Arbery’s death is among countless others — including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd — during and before the COVID-19 pandemic. The global pandemic of racism has been outing and exposing racial aggressions towards people of color.
Why is it that justice is so delayed for us? It is said that the justice system is broken but it’s clear it was never created to protect all of us. So why do we seek protection from flawed human law? From a government that wasn’t formed in our favor. That still operates on the discriminatory agendas instituted by wealthy segregationists like the Virginia lawmakers after Bacon’s Rebellion. God loves justice and whether or not it is served during our time, He will establish fairness.
I can’t help but think about how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened when Moses demanded that the Israelites be freed. Pharaoh was wealthy, didn’t have much to worry about and had what he had because of the Israelite slaves. Similar to today, a majority of those in power are White — government & politics, communication, advertising, fashion, architecture, tech and most global industries — who do not represent or give much agency to people of color despite most creative inspirations and innovative ideas that originally come from or are appropriated from people of color. Many corporates have what they have because of evil they’ve done in life to achieve their power. We’re treated like their door mats — good enough to wipe their feet on and nothing more. Good enough for profitable diversity but not genuine inclusivity. For a moment and then no more. Exoticized. Fetishized. Demonized. Their hearts and minds have hardened because they’ve allowed the devil to infect them. They do anything to remain in control. They enjoy their ivory towers while every one else suffers. “They have an easy time until they die, and their bodies are well fed. They are not in trouble like others; they are not afflicted like most people. Therefore, pride is their necklace, and violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge out from fatness; the imaginations of their hearts run wild. They speak maliciously; they arrogantly threaten oppression. They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues strut across the earth (Psalms 73:4 – 9).”
The wicked are so greedy that they’re willing to keep everyone on starvation wages since the economy they invented runs on our low-wage labor while their wealth increases (Sanders). And when they get found out; when their evil is outed, they try to find ways to silence us. To brand us as conspirators or criminal forces. As if God hasn’t already observed their atrocities. There was a time that by even learning to read the Bible, slaves were beaten, sold or lynched so as to prevent their understanding of God. This is an ancient tactic of oppression that is not unique to the United States of America.
“I think one of the things we don’t talk about as Black creators often is how much we seek White validation to bring back to the Black community so the Black community can accept us.”
Supremacists are narcissists who enjoy when people of color maintain a slave mentality. A draining mentality where we’re expected to be “yes’m” even when we’re spit on or else be seen as an angry threat. Integrity and passion for justice are so often mislabeled as anger. This is modern-day slavery. An enslavement of the mind where people of color believe that success — and safety — in life is only possible by validation from White people. Maurice Harris, the brain child behind the Quibi show Centerpiece, interviewed Kerby Jean-Raymond, the founder & creative director of fashion label Pyer Moss, who stated, “I think one of the things we don’t talk about as Black creators often is how much we seek White validation to bring back to the Black community so the Black community can accept us (Harris).”
For many of us, our own understanding of ourselves — of each other — has been tainted. We cannot feel dependent on White validation or any validation other than our Maker’s. We must stop competing with one another for opportunities that are inherently tokenistic and meant to take advantage of us. We must come together and lift each other up so we can form the future we — and our children — truly deserve. To see each other as brothers and sisters who all deserve seats at the table of life. The many accomplishments of recent protests brings hope that we are already building that table.
Despite our past and present nonviolent efforts for peace and harmony, they remain against us. Not just because of fear but because of superiority. Because of a sickness — a lust — to control. As if we’re not good enough to be free. To be equal. Or to receive salvation. And one doesn’t have to be outspoken to be a White supremacist just as someone can still be racist while having Black and Brown family members, colleagues or multiethnic children. However, these people don’t sway me because my confidence is in God. He is a God of justice and does not let evil go unchecked. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400+ years — that’s almost half a millennia. And even after, they were at war with other nations to maintain that freedom. But God heard their cries and sent Moses to lead them out. He hears our cries and He will one day deliver us home with Him.
Don’t give up. Not on yourself. Not on faith. Not on God. “Give us aid against the foe, for human help is worthless. With God we will perform valiantly; he will trample our foes (Psalms 60:12).” The devil will stop at nothing to turn us against each other. To fear instead of love one another. Just as God told the Israelites to pass down the story of Egypt to their children, He does not want us to forget about how He delivered our ancestors from the shackles of slavery. So today, tomorrow, the next day, everyday in honor of all Black and Brown lives who overcame the tribulations of slavery, of oppression, let’s celebrate and dance; sing and praise; thrive and prosper; speak up and speak out. God delivered them so that we could do these things and more. Now is the time. ■