by Jonathan Gramling
|Freedom and Juneteenth Day
The effect of this neo-colonial relationship between Europe and Africa was the continued shipment of cheap raw materials from Africa to feed
manufacturing in Europe. And they could do it without the expense and trouble of actually occupying Africa.
The same is true in the United States. I wrote the following in observation of Juneteenth Day back in 2012:
“Juneteenth Day is still an important milestone in our nation’s history that should be used to reflect on the price that many have paid for
individual freedom in this country. Up to that point in 1865, many Africans who were slaves gave their lives in many different ways in their
quest for freedom, whether it was through joining the Continental Army under George Washington to fight in the Revolutionary War to being
put to death for trying to escape to fighting on the side of the Union during the Civil War. And many gave their lives in the following 110 years
or so to make that freedom actually free.
“But the fight for freedom never stops. Recent voter suppression bills passed by the Wisconsin legislature and signed into law by Governor
Scott Walker and enacted in other states show us that the fight for one’s position on God’s green earth never stops. Now the fight isn’t
through cannons and musket fire like it was during the 1860s. It is through the ballot box and voting and through education where people
prepare themselves for economic battle that the fighting is done.
The fight is not over and young people in the African American community especially need to engage this fight for it is their future freedom
that is at risk. If you think conditions today are bad, things can get much worse. Freedom is not guaranteed!”
For those who came of age or were adults in the 1950s, it was the Civil Rights Movement that was fought for the liberty of African
Americans, resulting in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
These laws won more freedom for African Americans and other people of color. Theoretically speaking, people could vote without being
harassed, live where they wanted to if they could afford it and not have their civil rights violated by state or local government.
But it was “civil society” freedom granting African Americans and other people of color governmental rights. Freedom does not mean that one
can do what they want whenever they want. That kind of attitude usually means that the people around the individual are having their rights
violated by the very person who claims their “freedom.” Even in the wild, people are not free to do what they want. There are predators like
bears and mountain lions that gladly take advantage of the fool dancing around doing what they want.
But those laws from the 1960s changed the legal structure of society to give African Americans more freedom.
But remember that it was a grant of governmental freedom, but did little to change the economic structure of a society that still depended on
the relatively cheap labor of African Americans, particularly African American men. There are elements in our society even today who refuse
to give up that cheap labor.
And so, gaining the cheap labor of particularly African American men would have to be gained another way. Mass media vilified African
American men beginning in the early 1970s and promoted lifestyles like “Super Fly” who seemed not to work and lived through a hustle here
and there. The drug lifestyle was glamorized. Every day working class African American men were portrayed as thugs and lazy. Most
everyone I met in Mississippi and beyond were working their butts off in fields and manufacturing plants.
It created all sorts of negative imagery of African American men to the point that they were once again “imprisoned” by an invisible array of
attitudes on the part of the dominant Euro-American society. Young Black men would be confronted by police if they were walking in a
“white” neighborhood and told they didn’t look like they belonged there even though they or their families owned a home in the neighborhood.
Young Black men — and others — were told that academic achievement was “trying to be white” and there “freedom” could be found on the
streets hustling and perhaps being a drug entrepreneur. And they either died young or ended up in jail and became part of that cheap labor pool
inside of prison and outside once they were released and had an almost unsurmountable hill to climb if they wanted to “make it” and get
beyond those “invisible strictures” that drew them back to “The Life.”
And so I am encouraged by the massive protests that continue around the world. It is this young generation’s turn to gain their freedom on a
higher level, to push the concept of freedom to a new height. But this generation had better vote in November to secure their freedom or all of
the protesting will have just been for naught. That is the price of freedom.
Freedom is a never-ending pursuit on God’s green acre. It is hardly something static or a status that is
achieved for all time. I forget how many times the Israelites were enslaved by one foe or another in the Old
And of course, there are conditions of neo-slavery where the systems are put in place that achieve the same
result as actual slavery, but the mechanism for making that so is almost invisible. For instance, after the
African nations achieved their independence starting in the 1950s, policies and procedures were put into place
including trading agreements and mutual-protection pacts. Did you ever wonder why France would send its
troops into Francophone countries when there was unrest and threats to overthrow the government in