Observance of Juneteenth

Freedom Doesn't Mean Free


By Nan Firkin

Juneteenth is a special day in the past for a shameful American history that is still being written. A symbolic day, not just for black Americans, but for the American society we live in. Juneteenth was declared "freedom day" to commemorate the public recognition of the freedom of slaves. By law black people were not allowed to be owned property, but slavery through oppression continues.

America has evolved quickly in its capitalist economy, but trails behind other societies with integrating its brightest minds to move the forward in humanity. Business is a key component of capitalism, and companies are driving forces in employment to give people the finances they need to feed into the economy. The pandemic slowed the economy significantly, but the systemic racism of killing innocent people being in the spotlight in recent weeks has surged a rallying cry for a restructuring of the standard norm. Protests against oppressive systemic racism have shaken the very fabric of capitalism and forced companies to listen and correct discriminatory conditions. This rallying cry is not going away anytime soon, the world is watching, and companies are under a microscope and being called out to wear their scarlet letter "R" to represent their racist existence.

The rallying cry was heard globally from the United States bringing together people of all races, genders, backgrounds, nationalities, sexual orientation, and physical abilities. People recognize it's not just about the oppression and well-being of one group of people, the people know building up an oppressed group of people paves the way to a better society for all.

In the wake of the protests many companies have come forward to condemn systemic racism, oppression, and publicly expressed solidarity with oppressed people. What took the companies so long? Was it public shaming or do the companies that have spoken up really seek change?

The issue is, within a company racism and oppression can be disguised in many ways that adversely impact one group of people over another. It can be disguised in hiring processes, business practice, an individual, etc. Although hiring processes and daily business practices may not scream racism, or inequality, individuals within a company have telltale signs of expressing it. Microaggressions are very real and alive. Companies may do their best to incorporate non-discriminatory values into their framework, but that doesn't mean the individuals who are working within the company and hold the power to say "hired" and "fired" aren't oppressive and displaying microaggressions against people based on their race, background, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or physical ability.

Individuals harboring discriminatory, racist, and oppressive feelings against a protected class of people always have behavior patterns, in which companies need to recognize. And if and when companies are aware of discriminatory individuals working within the confines of the companies, act on it. The rallying cry of the protests is not a drill to pull out PR stunts and ride the wave of the market, this is serious. People are tired of the emotional, mental, and physical trauma and they aren't afraid of speaking up anymore for fear of losing their jobs.

Companies have a responsibility to the people of this society and economy to move forward towards positive changes that promote equality. A PR statement of solidarity will not be enough, because the people know which companies are serious and which ones are not and the first clue is simply based on hiring and business practices. Hire based on talent, treat all employees equally, pay employees equally, pay attention to discriminatory and harassing patterns, and take information seriously when it hits the radar. Protecting a friend and colleague will do more damage than speaking up.

Juneteenth is a special day for reflection, caring, and love. Observe and respect Juneteenth.