This Wednesday, June 19 is Juneteenth, the date when enslaved people in Texas were given the news of their freedom in 1865. The marker of emancipation became a federal holiday in 2021, after decades of advocacy for its national recognition by people like Opal Lee — a native Texan who grew up attending local Juneteenth parades and was motivated to bring more awareness to the special date. 

As URL Media partner Watch the Yard reports, Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year for her efforts, which included a symbolic march from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., to win recognition of Juneteenth as a national holiday.

Lee, who our partner PushBlack outlines was the victim of racial violence as a child (her family home was torched to the ground by white neighbors in 1939), is only one example of generations of African Americans who have sought acknowledgement — if not redress — for their experiences of oppression in this country. This week, survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, which was the deadliest racial massacre in U.S. history, were denied reparations by the Oklahoma Supreme Court for the suffering they underwent when white mobs attacked their communities, destroyed property, and took lives. Capital B highlights that the survivors’ legal team have promised to file a petition for rehearing asking that the court reconsider its decision in the case. 

“The massacre happened 103 years ago, but it remains a vivid memory of [Lessie Benningfield Randle and Viola Ford Fletcher], who as young girls saw their community destroyed in the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history,” the legal team said in a statement. “As Mother Fletcher celebrated her 110th birthday last month and Mother Randle will celebrate the same birthday later this year, time is of the essence for this investigation to begin.”

The denial of redress for those who were directly harmed by the violence, robbery, and trauma committed with impunity or the U.S. government’s implicit support continues a legacy of anti-Blackness in this country. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to roll back affirmative action (itself a policy that didn’t go far enough to address the systematic discrimination and exploitation experienced by generations of African Americans in this country’s educational institutions), any effort to support the descendants of this discrimination now seems to be in legal crosshairs. 

Case in point: The nation’s first reparations program, launched in Evanston, Illinois, where Black people were redlined and cut off from building wealth through racially discriminatory housing policies, aimed to support direct descendants of these policies with up to $25,000 in housing benefits and mortgage assistance. Now the City of Evanston is being sued by a conservative group on behalf of six non-Black residents who — though neither they nor their ancestors were harmed by the systemic injustice that the program aims to remediate — have determined that they should be eligible for it as URL Media partner Prism reports. 

Meanwhile, this week the Pew Research Center announced that Black Americans believe in the “conspiracy theory” that most U.S. Institutions have anti-Blackness baked into them. The organization has since walked back the “conspiracy theory” label, acknowledging that the suspicions many Black Americans have are rooted in historical and present day inequities. It’s hard to deny that the goal posts often shift when it comes to giving Black communities what they are due. 

But freedom isn’t free. And discrimination costs a price. Until this country recognizes the debt it owes to those it legally subjugated for centuries, and the inequalities that persist as a result, is this truly the land of the free? 

Uplift. Respect. Love.