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This Juneteenth, We Must Stand Up for Our Black Neighbors

As a little girl, when I heard the story of Moses being drawn from the water by Pharaoh’s daughter, the emphasis of the story was one person being saved for the freedom of a group of people. This is true. But what wasn’t emphasized as much was how Moses was saved. According to the Exodus account, he was saved because his mother and his sister refused to abide by the unjust edict that said all Hebrew male babies should be killed. Similarly, this Juneteenth, as a slew of anti-DEI laws sweep across the U.S., it’s critical that we take a note from our spiritual ancestors and stand up against the unjust laws and policies meant to restrict the freedom and flourishing of our Black Neighbors.

Stand Up

The first way we can stand up is by working around unjust rulings. For example, the state of Florida is spearheading massive anti-DEI efforts that other states are duplicating. Besides the state’s textbooks insisting that slavery benefited enslaved Black people, the state has banned AP African American Studies courses. However, to counter lawmakers’ efforts to revise and overlook aspects of American history, organizations are standing up to teach “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about our history.

The non-profit organization Faith in Florida provides African American history toolkits to faith leaders who want to teach the subject to their congregants and communities. Likewise, this summer, the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum and the Shirley Proctor Puller Foundation’s Freedom School Summer have partnered to offer Black History courses to young students. These three organizations are just a few that are standing up for their Black Neighbors by ensuring that our collective history is neither watered down nor ignored.

Another way we can stand up for our Black Neighbors is by looking injustice straight in the eye and giving it a Rosa Parks “Nah.” This is what the Hebrew midwives did in Exodus 1:8-17. When the king of Egypt saw that the enslaved Hebrews were growing strong in number, he feared that they would become powerful enough to overthrow their rulers and flee from slavery. (Sound familiar?) So, he ordered the midwives to kill all of the newborn male children.

Scripture says: “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” In other words, they resisted. They chose to stand up against the king’s unjust order. We can do the same by choosing to do the right thing.

Do the Right Thing

One of my friends works for a large public institution in a state that is working to remove all DEI programs within its borders, including critical programs meant to improve healthcare and educational outcomes for infants and children. “When I received an email from the state asking for a list of our DEI programs, I ignored the message,” she told me, with a furrowed forehead. “I’m not gonna give them a roadmap to where to start dismantling programs!” Instead, she will continue her critical work and simply change the program’s name.

If you’re wondering if her approach is right, I want you to remember that throughout history, Christian missionaries have snuck Bibles across borders to countries like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. Was it illegal? Yes. But what is right? Absolutely. Just because a leader or a government prohibits something or tells you to do the wrong thing doesn’t mean you have to listen. Listen to Spike Lee — “Do the Right Thing.”

love your neighbor
(Photo: Unsplash/Nina Strehl)

A third way we can stand up for our Black Neighbors is by creating economic support systems to replace the affirmative action measures being dismantled by anti-DEI court rulings. Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that the Fearless Fund, an Atlanta-based venture capital firm, should be temporarily blocked from allocated funding specifically for Black women entrepreneurs because the practice discriminates against business owners of other races.

Tragically and ironically, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that despite the Fearless Fund being set up to combat racial and gender discrimination, the fund’s allocation of certain funds to Black women is discriminatory, a violation of the 1866 Civil Rights Act, which was designed primarily to prohibit discrimination against Black people. Make it make sense.

But instead of just getting mad at these rulings (and yes, we’re mad!), we must find ways to continue to stand up, only differently. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has gutted affirmative action, we can (and must) implement affirmative action measures, only quietly. Isn’t this why affirmative action policies were needed in the first place? In order to loudly and publicly combat the racial and gender discrimination that was happening quietly and privately in boardrooms and organizations throughout the U.S.?

We (people of color and our allies) must do the right thing, regardless of the whims and rulings of lawmakers. We must find ways to stand up for Black businesses and Black economic strength because if we don’t, then who will?

I’m convinced we must create a clandestine, economic underground railroad of sorts that provides funding and opportunities for our Black Neighbors. Does this involve pooling our resources to create private funds to finance Black entrepreneurs? Yes. Does this involve funding fellowships for Black scholars who study and write about Black history? Yes. Does this involve funding organizations like the Black Economic Alliance Foundation that are fighting these unjust laws in court? Absolutely.

We’re living in an age where justice is being rebranded as “unjust” while injustice is being labeled “just.” We must courageously oppose what is unjust to support what is, in fact, just. So… how will you stand up for your Black Neighbor this Juneteenth?

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Chanté Griffin
Chanté Griffin
Chanté Griffin is a freelance journalist and the author of Loving Your Black Neighbor As Yourself: A Guide to Closing the Space Between Us. Her socially conscious work centers the intersection of race, culture, and faith. Join her Substack community.

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