By Mary Fahnestock-Thomas, Hamilton
It’s over 31 years since I was able to wish you a Happy Father’s Day! in person, or even by mail or phone. I think you would approve of my doing it this way now.
You were a kind man, thoughtful, conscious, and responsible, determined to be fair in all contexts, and you (nearly) always took serious things seriously.
What would you say today to Juneteenth, the day I am writing to you? Even with your advanced education and degrees, you didn’t know about it. Even with my advanced education and degrees, I didn’t either until just a few years ago.
June 19, 1865, was when the last slaves, in Galveston, Texas, found out about the Emancipation Proclamation — found out they had been freed — two and a half years after it had happened. News traveled slowly in those days.
It doesn’t anymore; in fact, today there’s so much “news” going around that we have to be conscientious about deciding what is real and what is not. You would be distressed at how much is motivated by self-interest, by a fixation on money and power.
Since the purposeful death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, more and more of us are reading and listening and learning as much as we can about this racism that theoretically ended 155 years ago and that has affected Native Americans and other people of color for centuries as well.
Remember after World War II, when the USA was giving generously through the Marshall Plan to the countries (on both sides) that needed to rebuild, and the GI Bill made it possible for so many returning GI’s to finish their education and buy a home for their young families?
Did you know that that really applied almost exclusively to white people? That colleges and realtors and city governments — government at all levels, in fact — were very conscious of skewing almost everything to us whites? Surely out of self-interest — afraid that Others would treat us the way we had long treated them?
You couldn’t have, but that continues to be a major reason for the continuing affluence of whites like us and the continuing lack of opportunity for others.
Well, now we know, and now we can work to even the playing field, like you believed in doing, so that our country finally begins to fulfill its promise of democracy, where not just all men are “created equal” by the God we pretend to worship, but all human beings, regardless. Pray for us. I hope that by Juneteenth 2021, it will be celebrated as our second Independence Day.