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Why Juneteenth Matters to Me

Growing up in a military family, I moved frequently, experiencing diverse cultures from New York to California and Texas to South Dakota. This exposure enriched my understanding of diversity's importance in our society.


While America became a place of refuge for some—most of whom were political and religious refugees seeking freedom and opportunity—it’s important to acknowledge that not all came willingly or with the same prospects. That's what underscores the significance of Juneteenth, a holiday that memorializes the end of slavery and the ongoing need to work toward equality, justice, and community.


Living in Utah where anti-DEI legislation has recently been passed, I've encountered individuals who believe this signifies progress, viewing racial inequality as a thing of the past. This concerns me because so many are unaware of the subtle forms of discrimination that still persist.


While overt racism is less visible in many areas of the country, microaggressions and unintentional racism do exist. These attitudes are more subtle, which is why many people fail to recognize the need for continued progress in building safety and inclusion in our communities.


Take the example of "colorblindness." This is a phrase I was introduced to when I moved to Utah--and it's one that frankly confused me. This phrase, often said with pride by individuals who see it as a sign of progress, is actually part of the problem. It denies the existence of diversity in our life experience and shuts down opportunities to connect with others. It overlooks the fact that the effects of centuries of slavery are still felt today.


Yes, there has been progress over the years. But it has come with toil, struggle, and frustration.


Microaggressions and inadvertent racism may be unintentional, but that's part of the problem. Like being surprised when you find out someone is a person of color because they didn't "sound black" on the phone. We need less blindness to the issues that still exist. Opening our minds and hearts to engage in conversations with those whose life experience is different from our own allows us to understand the issues that do still exist and work together toward continued progress in our communities.


Juneteenth serves as a reminder of both our nation's progress and the work that remains. It is a call to action to educate ourselves, listen to others' experiences, and contribute to a more inclusive society where all of our talents and gifts can be fully used and shared.


Today, I honor the brilliant, talented, and courageous members of the BIPOC community who have touched my life. From dear friends who provided strength, support, and community throughout my high school experience to amazingly talented colleagues and mentors whose example and insight have helped me to grow professionally. My life has been blessed because of you.


I truly believe that no one can diminish another person without diminishing ourselves. We do not need to be threatened by others stepping into their greatness, because together we rise.


So, yes. Today I celebrate Juneteenth and am grateful for how much my life has been blessed by the BIPOC community. You matter.


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