Editor’s note: If you would like to submit a Letter to the Editor, email us at email@example.com.
By Loretta Kumire
I am a junior at BYU-Idaho originally from Zimbabwe. I have lived in four different countries and have experienced first-hand what it is like to adjust to different cultures.
While here, I have made friends with people from many backgrounds and races. The challenge to understand each other and empathize is necessary within a small community such as Rexburg, and as a whole nation.
In his book, Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson shared, “Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
Stevenson’s quote has resonated with me. It has helped me to be patient when confronting racism by trying to find common ground with all people I meet, but not condone the act.
As an African studying in the United States, I have experienced first-hand what it means to be Black in America, and it is hard. There is a struggle with race here that I had not previously experienced.
Through studying and reading, I have come to believe that a lot of this prejudice exists because America has not reconciled herself with her history regarding race.
For example, slave owners were just a product of their time and no one saw that as a real issue. There was always an opportunity to do the right thing, however, no one seemed to care.
Juneteenth is the day that Black people celebrate their freedom. Yet it is not celebrated across the nation.
Born in 1865, Juneteenth was the day that the union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, in Galveston, Texas declared the war had ended and that the enslaved were free.
However, this only came into practice two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, on January 1, 1863.
Juneteenth is a sacred day to Black people. It is the day that reminds them of how far they came, from more than 400 years of slavery and oppression.
It reminds them of the injustices faced in this country since Jim Crow.
It might seem slightly exaggerated to address this in 2020, it being 155 years since emancipation, but it seems that it is more pertinent now more than ever.
The recent events with the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd seemed to have brought with it some much-needed awareness of the continued black struggle.
Rexburg has seen a rise in students of color these past three years, with most of them of African descent.
These students have created a community that has given way for safe spaces and conversation as a way of finding common ground. Yet, they are not heard or seen.
As Juneteenth is approaching, the Black Student Union, along with the Black Lives Matter Rexburg are going to celebrate, invite the community, and seek to educate and raise awareness about the issues that have plagued this country for decades.
Recent events have taught us as a society that we need to challenge our ignorance, reexamine the biases we have and seek to develop empathy.
As an outsider, I did not think that my voice mattered on issues in America, however, because I am Black, I’ve become an insider and thrust into the reality of the issues faced by African Americans on a daily basis.
I think Senator Cory Booker said it beautifully in his book, “I have learned that we must be more courageous in the empathy we extend to one another, we must shoulder a deeper responsibility for one another, and we must act in greater concern with one another”.
I have hope in those that are willing to challenge their bias and seek to make the change and educate themselves and others on the social issues we are currently facing as a nation. Only then, can we too, sing America.