Marissa Matusiak | Mango Drive
Do you know what Juneteenth is? Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January of 1863, it took more than two years for the Proclamation to be enforced in Texas. The day enslaved African-Americans in Texas were told they were free, June 19, 1865, is Juneteenth.
June 19, 2020 is the day I founded Raise Black Voices. We shine a light on systemic racism and how policies made at every level – including locally in Del Mar – can exacerbate racial disparities. Racial justice means confronting and fixing systems that perpetuate racial inequities.
Systemic racism is everywhere: from medicine to criminal justice; from housing to education. It is a disease that has existed in America for far too long.
National studies find Black students are more likely to be suspended from preschool than white students. Police are more likely to use force against Black adolescents. Black boys and girls are routinely viewed as older and more guilty, when compared to similarly aged white boys and girls. The presumption of guilt follows Black children to adulthood.
Biases begin forming at an early age. In 2019, some Del Mar Heights kindergartners, including my daughter, learned a poem about heroes that started with, “I may not be a Washington, a Lincoln, or a Lee.” The “Lee” referenced in the poem, was General Robert E. Lee, the leader of the Confederate Army. Imagine my surprise as a Black woman and descendent of enslaved people to learn my child was taught that the chief defender of enslavement was a hero.
When my husband inquired how Robert E. Lee could be a “hero,” he was told by my daughter’s teacher that, “We must consider all perspectives.” She later backtracked. The experience left my five-year-old asking if her friends’ parents thought she should be enslaved.
This “both sides” argument reemerged after the January insurrection where armed civilians stormed our Capitol with Confederate flags, screaming racial epithets and attempting to topple our democracy. The Superintendent of the Del Mar Unified School District wrote to parents, “Together, we bear a heavy responsibility to support our children through troubling events and trauma when they occur, and to do so objectively and in a manner respectful of all perspectives.”
Respectful of all perspectives? I strongly disagree. We must have the courage as a community to name and teach our children about right and wrong. When a “perspective” is based on the oppression and subjugation of others, it does not deserve moral equivalence. It warrants condemnation, coupled with a commitment to cultivate a respect for the human dignity of us all.
That is really the work of Raise Black Voices. We raise awareness of systemic racism and the need for policy reform and cultural awakening via our weekly newsletter. We ask readers to spark conversation in their communities about systemic change. Our hope is that a greater and shared understanding will chip away at implicit biases and structural racism. I hope you join us.