Updated: Feb 21, 2021
This morning as I pasted stamps to over one-thousand mail-out post cards on one of my odd jobs, I listened to podcasts to temper the monotony. Eager to learn more about a holiday that usually passes me by, I searched ‘Juneteenth’ and listened to the first few podcast episodes that appeared. I was intrigued to find out the holiday emerged from a very specific moment in the Union’s efforts to end slavery. Not a blanket commemoration of abolition or a nod to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation (which was in January, not June), this day memorializes the very day the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed in Galveston, Texas to proclaim the news that slavery was no longer lawful, forcibly reminding enslavers of this two and a half year old law. I’ve been reading up on certain scenarios, begging the question why it took Texas so long to accept and integrate changes and follow orders. While news travelled slower on horseback, I’m positive it had nothing to do with that. One can travel just about anywhere in America in less than two and a half years on foot! I’m also positive that the alleged murder of news-carrying-horseman had nothing to do with it either. Texans failed to follow orders for the very same reason a child continues to whine even after you’ve told them no for the zillionth time: denial.
Denial is sneaky. Denial is insidious. Denial denies fault and radically accepts oppression, lies, and unadulterated selfishness. Denial thrives off of arbitrary, false systems of hierarchy that gloat in the perceived failings and glorified fears of anything other and dissimilar. Denial distorts reality. Ultimately denial cannot allow truth to break in because all denial sees is one singular angle, one singular desire, one singular self that exalts itself to some place where denial is even an option in this thing called life or survival. To deny survival of a life in one’s path while continuing to survive and live is the denial that we are the same—temporal organisms, created creatures, dust. To deny the life of another—from ability to breath to nuanced, incremental, multifaceted flourishing—is to deny the perspective of another and when we deny that, we become what David Foster Wallace defines as a slave to the head: “your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone – day in and day out.”
Limiting beliefs multiply denial over time, accepting less outside influence and narrowing viewpoints. The only quell to limiting beliefs is the uncomfortable process of discovering another perspective that ultimately reveals an unshakeable truth, supported by history, reality, and experience. Not only a fixture in severe mental illness, but limiting beliefs crop up even in the day to day wanderings that lead me to entertain falsehoods about myself and my capabilities, that twist tinges of regret to full on statements of squandering entire seasons of my life. I cannot tell you how many conversations have led me off the ledge of living defeatedly all because someone helped me accept vibrant reality. Many limiting beliefs have palpably diminished my life, so I celebrate the steady, generous efforts of good friends with sound minds. However, what about limiting beliefs that have given me great privilege and grant me a false sense of control, power, glory, and value due to larger structures like culture, religion and government? What about limiting beliefs that have engrained themselves in entire systems? The same is true no matter the scale: limiting beliefs multiply denial over time, accepting less outside influence and narrowing viewpoints, and therefore require all people to pursue steadily and generously the uncomfortable process of defining and uncovering unshakeable truth, supported by history, reality, and experience.
Today, on this Juneteenth, in a year that mirages the very concept of a year to a modern American, I mourn those thirty months that prolonged the active, acute, and appalling ownership of a human’s life by a human and a system. I mourn the multiplication of denial, how a fraction of humanity denied some 250,000 people their (birth)right to live freely and fairly. I mourn slavery from beginning to now, but specifically, I mourn rebellious enslavers who neglected the news and the impact that made on hundreds of thousands of people. Thirty months is enough time for any degree of damage—lives lost that never journeyed an inch of freedom, family reunions that never happened, beatings, rape, back-breaking work that caused lifelong injuries and health problems, money unmade, dreams, desires, relationships uncultivated, and most of all, every second that perpetuated the denial of freedom on the body and the brain. So much can happen in three months; so much can happen in thirty. Whether new or old, whether easy or hard, whether clear or murky, receive the news. There is much freedom to receive. There is much freedom to accept. There is much freedom to pursue.
I mourn a lot these days—what was lost in our terrible past and the continuation of horrifying oppression—yet today, I particularly mourn those thirty months, recognizing that time is precious because people’s lives are precious. I vow to receive the news, knowing that readiness to receive precedes acceptance which precedes action which precedes change. I am moved by the history that Juneteenth offers: that truth receiving is urgent, that truth exists in plain sight, yet we are prone to living our limiting beliefs that deny freedom, from our minds to the treatment of people. Freedom is found when we pursue the difficult work of righting our limiting beliefs and denial mentality, transforming our perspective to face the truth.
Today, I hold tightly to this truth: Black lives are precious, they matter profoundly.
I celebrate the Black community, what their unique experience and magnanimous culture, history and people teach me—the very definition, the fullest expression of resiliency.
This is Water by David Foster Wallace – https://youtu.be/8CrOL-ydFMI