June 18, 2020 — New York
On the occasion of the Juneteenth holiday tomorrow, American Jewish Committee (AJC) issued the following statement:
On June 19, 1865, two months after the Civil War ended in Confederate surrender and two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, news reached Galveston, Texas — slavery was no more. American Jewish Committee (AJC) joins Black Americans across the United States in celebrating the anniversary of that day as Juneteenth.
AJC has, in fact, had a presence in Galveston, where the first Juneteenth was celebrated, since our founding in 1906. Our founders created an organization to keep Jews safe, but they knew then what time has only made more evident — Jewish safety and success in the United States is bound up with that of other minorities, including our brothers and sisters in the Black community.
This is a perilous moment for America, with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, tens of millions suddenly unemployed, daily revelations and reminders of pervasive racial injustice, and civil unrest in our streets. This festival of freedom provides a welcome opportunity to reflect on the words of what has been termed the Black national hymn, Lift Every Voice and Sing: “Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us. Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.”
At this time of national introspection, we call upon our fellow citizens to finally reckon with the systemic racism that has never stopped disadvantaging Black Americans. With the rapidly expanding diversity of the American Jewish community, we must also make special note of the particular challenges that Black Jews face, as potential victims of both antisemitism and racism.
On this Juneteenth, AJC reiterates our policy recommendations to address these ingrained inequities and injustices. AJC will work to:
- Support the creation of a national taskforce to examine systemic inequities;
- Continue to urge passage of the NO HATE Act to improve hate crime reporting;
- Enact necessary reforms in police practice. Essential elements of the proposed Justice in Policing Act, including the creation of a database of police violators, restrictions on the use of the “qualified immunity” for violent officers, restrictions on the transfer of military equipment to police, and the banning chokeholds are long overdue.
- Push for the allocation of financial resources to redress stubborn inequities and indignities, including the allocation of additional funding to support education in impoverished communities;
- Ensure the right to vote for all Americans, while safeguarding honest elections;
- See white supremacist groups, and other extremists, that engage in transnational radicalization, recruitment, training, and violence designated as terrorist organizations
On this Juneteenth, AJC stands in solidarity with the Black community and rededicates itself to the pursuit of racial equality. We call on all Jews to do likewise.