Friday, 19 June 2020

I Know Why It's Important

This isn't a hockey article today, but it should be considering that the Tampa Bay Lightning shut down their facilities today after three players and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19. On top of that, wunderkind Auston Matthews also reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, so maybe it might be time to scrap this idea of finishing the season and start working on how we can be safer for restarting hockey in October or later. I won't beat that dead horse of me wanting the NHL to cancel the season because today is a very important day in American history.

Look, I've avoided talking politics on this blog, and I will continue to do so. Despite the politicization of what's happening in the United States right now, this is a discussion about civil rights. About human rights. About things that we, as privileged white Canadians and Americans, take for granted each and every day. I won't politicize this message, but my silence on the topic was because I needed to understand before I felt I could speak.

I'm a true believer of that adage that states if one doesn't know history, one is condemned to repeat it. Being Canadian, we were taught about the American Civil War, but anything beyond that dealt with Canada's involvement in the Underground Railroad. To say I'm ignorant about US history after the Civil War wouldn't even be close - I know nothing. Since I don't know history, I've begun to read, listen, and watch all that I can to better understand the situation happening south of the border. I want to understand this situation more.

I need to understand.

To that extent, for those that don't know, June 19, 1865 saw Union general Gordon Granger announce in the city of Galveston, Texas through a federal order that all slaves in Texas were free. Texas had been one of the slowest states to allow freedom for slaves, and while all slaves wouldn't truly be free until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States on December 6, 1865, the Union army marching into Texas to enforce the proclamation in Texas was one of the final major events in the freeing of the slaves in the southern US.

Again, I'm nowhere near smart enough to even speak somewhat intelligently on the subject, so I'm going to implore you to watch this piece from Vox on Juneteeth because it's infinitely better than anything I could explain. Historian Karlos K. Hill of the University of Oklahoma narrates this piece, and he's infinitely smarter than I am so listen to his words as you watch this video.
In listening and watching this presentation by Vox and Karlos K. Hill, you should have a better understanding of why this day is so significantly important in the history of the United States of America. Despite being given freedom, it still took Black Americans decades to even move the needle on their civil rights. June 19, 1865 is vitally important because it moved the efforts for true freedom forward for Black Americans, but we, as a society, have yet to see Black Americans fully realize that promise.

I also want to focus on May 31 and June 1, 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma about an event that really needs to be taught in schools and revisited by many as the details and information surrounding the horrific incident that took place over two days in the Oklahoma city may be one of the largest racially-motivated incidents of violence in the planet's history. And perhaps worse than the violence was the cover-up of the massacre that happened, how Oklahoma hid its dark secret, and how a 1997 TV series on HBO called The Watchmen pulled the curtain back on one of the worst events in American history.

According to history, the massacre started when a 19 year-old Black shoeshine named Dick Rowland was accused of assaulting a 17 year-old white elevator operator named Sarah Page who worked at the nearby Drexel Building where Rowland would ride the elevator up several floors to use a segregated bathroom.

Now before we go any further, let me tell you that I am, again, not anywhere close to being smart enough to give you the details and information on how Rowland's arrest led to one of the worst "race riots" in American history, but I know two guys who are. Those men are Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark who host the always-informative Stuff You Should Know podcast, and this might be one of the best explanations I have listened to when it comes to trying to get a sense of what caused the riot. Give this a listen if you have 40 minutes to spare because Chuck and Josh leave no stone un-turned.

If you were wondering about that piece in The Atlantic that Chuck refers to that is a marketing piece for The Watchman yet had great information in it, you can find it here. Again, the work that Chuck and Josh did in examining this topic is second-to-none, and they did an excellent job in presenting this sensitive information objectively.

June is a significant month the history of Black Americans, and it should be given its proper recognition within American history when you consider these two monumental events that happened in 1865 and 1921. Thanks to the efforts of Vox, Karlos K. Hill, Chuck Bryant, and Josh Clark, I feel like I know more about the oppression of Black American civil rights and freedoms 100 years ago and further in the past, but I still feel I am still so ignorant about events closer to present day thanks to how history has downplayed or ignored the history of Black Americans.

I also want to say that with Sunday, June 21 being National Indigenous Peoples Day, Canadians shouldn't sit smugly and shrug our shoulders about American history because we're just as guilty when it comes to our decades of how we've treated Indigenous Peoples in this country. Again, I've been lucky enough to know some incredible Indigenous Peoples who have educated me about their histories at times, but I feel that the education I have would be equivalent to one step in a marathon. In other words, I have a long way to go to being far better.

It's here where I pledge to be an ally to end racism, to call out racism, to stop forms of racism, and to learn more how to be a better ally for all people of colour. I'd like to believe that I've done a good job, but my ignorance about the struggles that Black Americans have faced and Indigenous Peoples have faced only prove that I can be and do better.

And I will be and will do better from this day forward.

I ask that you don't confuse my silence on social media and here on this blog regarding the current situations happening in the world as anything but my efforts to learn about, read about, watch, and understand better about why things are unfolding as they are. I've spent a lot of time this month trying to gain a better understanding of the history of Black Americans as the news shows protests from all over the world, and I feel I have a better grasp of why we're seeing everything that's happening today. Again, it's important that I understand the history so I don't fall folly in repeating it in any way, shape, or form.

I now know why it's important, and I pledge to be an ally in ending racism.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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