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America Acknowledges Its Past to Seek a Just, Inclusive Future

When it comes to creating a just society for all races, genders, and classes it is important to look back to move forward. Whilst acknowledging the past can be painful, addressing the truths it uncovers may lead to a nation that makes better and more unified choices. This is always easier said than done, but America is taking on the challenge headfirst.

Breaking down the policies and regulations that have created division through unearned advantages at the expense of others is where they have started.

To advance racial equity, many Americans have recognised they must name perceived past and present injustices. In naming these inequities they have taken the first steps towards healing generations of pain, suffering, and oppression

The following three recent progressive and positive examples of recognition and change in US cities or States give hope that Americans can indeed realise a future where more racial equity is possible.

Greenwood Rising

In fall 2021, the new “Greenwood Rising” History centre will open in Tulsa Oklahoma to shed light on Black Wall Street and commemorate the 100th anniversary. Black Wall Street is one of the most horrifying race fuelled massacres in US history, yet many Americans do not know much about it. Beginning on May 31, 1921, white supremacists destroyed the prosperous district in an 18-hour assault, murdering over 300 Black residents and erasing nearly 35 blocks of Black-owned homes and businesses.

Throughout the year, Greenwood Rising will be hosting speakers, concerts, and other special events. The history center is designed to be a catalyst for revitalising Greenwood and for confronting and ending systemic racism across the nation. Greenwood Rising will be a launching pad for continuing the discussion of racial trauma and reconciliation, and the entire historic district will be a place where people can come to learn, acknowledge implicit bias, and personally commit to enacting real change.

Image: Projected image of Greenwood Rising, credit: Visit Greenwood

Commemorating Juneteenth

On Tuesday, November 17, the Port of Seattle Commission voted to make Juneteenth a Port-paid holiday to commemorate the event. Juneteenth, otherwise known as Black Independence Day, is a celebration of June 19, 1865. This is when the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas heard the news of their freedom.  Juneteenth is a day to honor the influence and the history of African Americans. This day recognises the African American community’s resilience, intellect, and contributions to the state and country.  Americans are called to reflect on how to create a better, more equitable future for all members of the community.

Image: Celebrating Juneteenth (Black Independence Day), credit: Port of Seattle

Police Reform Civil Action for the Deprivation of Rights

In June 2020 Colorado enacted a law enforcement reform bill, significantly changing the rights of police officers since the killing of George Floyd. Colorado is the first state to enact legislation that bars ‘qualified immunity’ as a defense to state constitutional claims. What is ‘qualified immunity’? The Civil Rights Act of 1871, allowed people whose rights had been violated by government officials to sue them for damages. But in 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court created qualified immunity, which shields officers from any legal liability. Qualified immunity has created a barrier for countless victims attempting to access their civil rights in federal court. Colorado has removed this protection for police enforcement ensuring they are held accountable. Additionally, under the Colorado law, officers who are found civilly liable for using excessive force or failing to intervene when excessive force was used, will have their certification permanently revoked.

Image: The streets of Colorado, credit: Colorado Tourism Office

Native American Heritage Month

Across the United States Thanksgiving is a day of celebration, commonly believed to be a commemoration of when the English Pilgrims broke bread with members of the Wampanoag tribe to celebrate a successful harvest in 1621. This idyllic version is substantially untrue and fails to recognise the years of oppression the first people of this nation encountered at the hands of the British and Europeans. Although Thanksgiving is commonly thought of as a time to be with loved ones and celebrate all that Americans are grateful for, the lack of recognition for the struggles Native communities faced has yet to be rectified.  As November is Native American Heritage Month and Day (November 27), many Americans now take time to honor Native Americans as the first people and stewards of the land.

Similarly, here in Australia, it is a timely reminder that we live on indigenous land. It is worthwhile to look it up if you do not know the details for where you live and to take the time to acknowledge the Indigenous people who stewarded our land for centuries.

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