A Juneteenth Reflection

In the Church’s calendar today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We reflect upon how the heart of Christ, pierced on the cross, overflowed with love and healing for all humankind.

In America today, many celebrate Juneteenth, the effective end of slavery in the United States. It marks the day when the last slaves in Texas were finally made aware that they were free, almost 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I had not paid much attention to this holiday before now. I’m thankful that this year, Adobe has given all employees globally the day off for reflection and advocacy.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection the last few weeks as a switch has flipped in our culture and coworkers of color have suddenly felt much more comfortable sharing with us their stories of discrimination and fear – in their homes, their cities, and yes, even in our workplace. These are coworkers who have been my collaborators, bosses, and friends. They have continued to open my eyes to privilege that I have enjoyed because of where I was born, the color of my skin, and the hard work of my parents to provide safety and opportunity.

Let me be clear on two points, though: First, safety and opportunity don’t start and stop somewhere on a socioeconomic continuum. I have heard the heart-wrenching story of at least one coworker of very fortunate economic circumstances who has faced racism on his own doorstep because “he doesn’t belong” in his neighborhood.

Second, while extremely gentle set against the experiences of so many, I do have at least some firsthand experience of what discrimination and racism can feel like. I knew very well growing up of what my Grandpa and Grandma Halbrook faced when he brought her home to Granite City from Japan during the Korean War, in the wake of the World War. I still remember the emotion of my grandma as I interviewed her about it for an essay in 5th grade. Racism and discrimination have no boundaries either, save those we build to stop them.

Today, I’m reflecting upon moments in my own life where I recognize that privilege helped me in situations (many, many situations.) I’m reflecting upon the stories I’ve heard of coworkers that give me pause and make me wonder what else I can do.

I’m reflecting upon Father Tolton, the first known black priest in America, ordained in our diocese in 1854, who “believed that the Catholic Church had the means, really, to unite people of every race and give everybody the dignity that’s due everyone.. and drew men and women of whatever skin tone together under one roof,” (and the trouble into which that got him.)

[Read: What Would Tolton Think of Today’s Crisis of Racial Injustice?]

I’m reflecting upon the liturgy of the Stations of the Cross that the bishops of California will be hosting, focused on racism. [Read more]

I’m reflecting upon the difference in violent, destructive protest and peaceful protest, and praying that more see the importance and value of peacefully standing up for change.

I’m reflecting upon the importance of the front-line responders out there – the vast majority of them good, upstanding, and loving of all people – how hard it must be on them right now, how we need to help them set up systems that keep them and their communities safe from the “bad cops,” and how we also have to help set up support structures to help them deal with the ongoing stress that our society asks them to deal with in their jobs.

I’m reflecting upon the importance of doing my very best to raise our own sons to see all men as brothers and equals, and to recognize that they still have a level of privilege that they can use to make a difference.

I’m reflecting upon how all won’t truly be free until we respect all stages of life, from conception to natural death, and reinforce a culture and laws that ensure just support throughout life.

I’m reflecting upon today’s Solemnity – that of Jesus’ Sacred Heart, the heart which overflows with love for all men and women. “Jesus, meek and humble of hearts, make my heart like unto thine.” O Sacred Heart of Jesus, open our hearts to be unselfish in love for those around us.

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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