I’ve struggled for the past couple of weeks, trying to figure out what to write here. There have been plenty of possible topics, but given Friday’s designation as Juneteenth, celebrating the emancipation of slaves at the end of the civil war, I am going to write on our rather tortured past regarding race relations.
Our founding fathers proclaimed that “all men are created equal”, but the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War very nearly didn’t happen because of disagreements over the ownership of negro slaves. A number of our founding fathers were slave owners.
After some decades, things came to a head in the 1860 with the secession of southern states and the formation of the Confederacy. Revisionists have tried to sugar coat the reasons for secession ever since. Most of the “civil war” monuments were erected in the 1920’s and 1930’s, not in the immediate aftermath of the war.
We experienced a particularly sordid episode during World War II. Because they were different, Japanese Americans were rounded up and placed in concentration camps while German Americans were not.
My roots in Florida and the south go back generations. Presumably at least some of my ancestors fought on the side of the Confederacy.
As various members of my extended family have attempted to trace our roots, things have gotten more complicated. My wife was able to trace my ancestry back to the Revolutionary War. One of my grand parents came to the US as an orphan from Scotland in the late 19th century. Some of my wife’s family came from Ireland, another source of immigrants who were looked down on by folks already here.
The further back we explore, the more “interesting” my heritage becomes. Victor Cannte was a great uncle of mine. I suspect I ought to get one of those DNA tests to find out once and for all where all my ancestors came from. If I had to guess, the answer would be “from all over the place.”
I was raised to believe that what people do and how they live their lives and treat others is far more important than the color of their skin, who they love, where they were born, or their religious persuasion.
Over the years, I’ve had a number of gay friends. Family weddings have added Catholics, and Jews to our extended family. I participated in my son’s wedding in a 500 year old Shinto shrine. Two of my nieces and a nephew were born in Russia.
In today’s climate, it is sobering to consider that I have two grandchildren who would have been rounded up and taken to internment camps if we still harbored the prejudice against people of Japanese ancestry that Americans did 80 years ago.
Recent events resulting in the deaths of Black Americans are troubling. It is not a crime to be black. Also troubling are attacks on Asian Americans because of some perception that they are responsible for the corona virus. Enough is enough.
It is time for our country to put aside our prejudices and come together as a UNITED States of America, treating everyone with the dignity and respect that they deserve. We are a melting pot and I don’t care whether you are gay, straight, black, white, hispanic, asian, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, etc. or some combination of any of the above. I’m far more interested in whether or not you are dedicated to making our city, state, and nation the best they can possibly be.
Please join me in extending a hand of friendship to all of our American brothers and sisters.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor