Freedom, But Not Yet Equality – My Reflection on DC Emancipation Day
Each year on this day, the District of Columbia celebrates Emancipation Day, commemorating the abolition of slavery in the District on April 16, 1862. Today, as DC observes Emancipation Day, the country is reflecting on the injustice of two Black men arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting to meet a friend. It is a reminder that even 156 years after the first American slaves were freed, Black Americans still have not achieved full equality.
In contrast to the notion of equality, Black Americans face harsher treatment in every rung of the criminal justice system, a significant achievement gap in our schools, lower wealth, and more dire health outcomes than other Americans. The color of a person’s skin can no longer be a criminal liability or barrier to achievement.
The uncomfortable images of these two Black men arrested in public like criminals and the countless unarmed Black men, women, and children killed by law enforcement officers are not rare or random occurrence. They reflect a dangerous inequality that continues to erode the dignity of our citizens and our country’s founding principles.
Full equality cannot be legislated, but brought about through social consciousness and collective determination. As we celebrate this DC Emancipation Day, we must renew our collective commitment to full equality for all Americans. If each of us use our individual microphones, be they social media or public office, to educate and to work boldly against discrimination, we will see the equality that justice requires.
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