June 25th or “June Unteenth”: A Sad Day For All Americans

carol p. christ 2002 colorKelly Brown Douglas wrote recently on Feminism and Religion about the celebrations in black communities on Juneteeth when the emancipation of slaves became a reality in the formerly Confederate states.  Sadly, on June 25th 2013 the Supreme Court announced its decision striking down section 4 of the Voting Rights act of 1965, the most important Civil Rights legislation of the 20th century.  The Supreme Court gave a “green light” to states with previous and on-going records of introducing laws with the effect of preventing minority voters from voting to “proceed straight ahead.”  I name this day June Unteenth and call on all Americans to mourn it in sackcloth and ashes.

For every American concerned with Civil Rights this indeed is a sad day. It means states and municipalities—particularly those in the former Confederacy—will in the days following the decision be introducing new legislation which will have the effect of disenfranchising black voters.  Those of us who consider the right to vote fundamental in a democracy must rise up, with time, with money, and if necessary with our bodies in peaceful protest.

This is not only a sad day for black Americans. It is a sad day for white Americans as well.  June Unteenth is the day 4 white Americans joined by 1 black American (who was hand-picked by white Americans) announced their decision to deny voting rights to large numbers of black Americans.  This decision may not affect the right to vote of large numbers of white Americans.

So why should we be mourning June Unteenth?  One good reason is that this is a day to be ashamed of our membership in the “white race.”  Like many other white Americans I have opposed racism all of my adult life.  Yet on June Unteenth other white Americans gave black Americans yet another reason to distrust white people as a group.  This may not be fair and it may not be right, but it is the truth.  It is white people who put the John Roberts court into office, and it is white people who will be blamed for its decisions.

The fact that 3 women, 2 of whom are white and 1 Hispanic, along with 1 white man, voted against the decision is important.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s words must be widely quoted: “The Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decision making.  Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.”

US Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. R

“this is not me”

Nonetheless, the “face” of the ruling striking down the VRA is white.

White people must make it clear that this face and its smug smile of white privilege is not a face with which we identify.

If white people who support Civil Rights and who support the Voting Rights Act of 1965 do not want to be blamed for what the Roberts court has done, then now is the time to stand up and be counted with words and action that say we will do everything in our power to ensure that voting rights are available to black Americans.

voting rights

“I stand with you”

It is also time to remember that support for Voting Rights for all Americans is not an issue that should be dividing Americans along racial lines. Rosa Parks sat down, Martin Luther King stood up, and Lyndon Baines Johnson, a son of the racist South, intended the Voting Act to be the signature legislation of his Presidency.*

Maybe it is time for another Civil Rights summer, this time to transport black citizens to the governmental offices where they will be required to jump through hoops to get their voter registration cards. It is time for all of us to stand up for the right to vote for all Americans. This is not a black issue. It affects all of us.  Without the right to vote there can be no real democracy.

*Johnson will also be remembered for waging the Vietnam War and for not listening to the voices ranged against it.

Carol P. Christ has just returned from a life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete which she led through Ariadne Institute.  The culture of ancient Crete, the last flowering of Old Europe, is one of the wellsprings of her spiritual vision, and there she participates in rituals that invoke Goddess and celebrate the connection of all beings in the web of  life.  Carol spoke on a WATER Teleconference recently.  Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions

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7 replies

  1. I absolutely refuse to be ashamed of the ‘white race’ firstly because I refuse to be ashamed of anything which is an accident of my birth and so something for which I am not morally responsible (being a woman, having a Romany grandmother, being the tall etc etc) and second, because I refuse to make political arguments on ‘racial’ grounds.

    Further, I absolutely refuse to have any truck with any variant of the so called ‘Blood Libel’. ie that any group of people is guilty for the crimes (real or imagined) of their ancestors and should be punished accordingly. (This was most famously used, of course, against the Jews).

    That I may be responsible for what my government does in my name, as (as a CITIZEN, not as a black, blue, red, green or any other coloured person) is an entirely different matter. The British government has just apologised and paid recompense to Mau Mau Kenyans who were imprisoned and tortured during the Mau Mau insurgency. This is absolutely right and proper. And it did it in the name of ALL British citizens of every colour (and we have lots of colours)

    Colonialism is an evil. Torture is an evil. War, assassination, greed and land-grab are all evils. But if anyone imagines that such crimes are perpetrated by ‘whites’ (whoever they are) alone had better check the history of the Chinese, Mongol, Muslim, Yoruba, Aztec, Summerian, and all the other empires and tyrannies in history.

    If there is one thing that people of European descent are inclined to do (perhaps because of their immediate history) it is to commit the hubris of taking the sins of the world upon their shoulders. A kind of moral colonialism, perhaps. European people are no better or worse than anyone else, and we will remain bogged down in the muddles and confusions of ‘race’ so long as we argue that they are.

    The very notion of ‘race’ is, of course a social construct and fundamentally incoherent – as the new genetics is proving for anyone who hasn’t caught up. Moreover, the invention of ‘race’ (as distinct from culture) has been used to perpetrate terrible crimes throughout history (eg the treatment of the Chinese by the Japanese).

    One of the most important arguments of the feminist revolution was for a change in the way we use language itself. Perhaps we need to take a long, hard, look at the language of ‘race’, not from the point of view of the familiar (and so comfortable) territory of blame and guilt, but as an examination of the fundamental coherence of the ideas by which we choose to live.


  2. Thank you for this clarion call to action!


  3. You are correct but it is not just blacks who will be affected but those states heavily populated by Hispanics such as here in Texas where I live.Almost at the exact time the courts made the ruling – the process to create very prejudicial voting boundaries previously struck down – began, Sad, sad day.


  4. This is an important post Carol. The loss of this aspect of the VRA is alarming, and opens up a huge door for further racist abuse.
    I had a conversation with my sister about this the same day that DOMA was struck down. It is sad that one huge victory must be accompanied by this huge defeat. She traveled to the PRIDE celebrations in San Francisco this weekend, and chose to wear a black armband with the letters VRA to publicly mourn this loss.
    I agree with you– we should openly and actively mourn; and do something to close this door to silencing. Thank you for your post.


  5. Yes a very sad day indeed!


  6. Don’t mourn, organize. We need to be doing this in every state so that Congress passes another VRA that protects the rights that the Supreme Court eviscerated.


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