Dear Creighton Community,
Today, we commemorate Juneteenth, a truly American holiday. It is American in that it drips with both the pain and the hope of being Black in America. On June 19, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation was finally read to Black people who were enslaved in Texas. The reading of this pivotal document to these strong, resilient people came nearly two and a half years after it was issued and two months after the Civil War had ended. The full undeniable humanity of Black people had not been recognized or respected then and the fight for the visibility and recognition of Black humanity continues today.
Our current moment on this Juneteenth at Creighton, in Omaha, and across the United States is filled with the promise that we may finally reckon with our nation’s past and how it permeates our present. For far too long, too many have done too little to stop individuals and institutions from perpetuating systemic racism. Anti-blackness has been encouraged to flourish unchecked in the hearts of far too many Americans. The depth of the struggle for the simple recognition that Black lives do matter serves as an example of the insidiousness of anti-Black racism. Mattering is not a high bar; it is minimal. The tide appears to possibly, finally, be turning across the nation with people of all identities boldly proclaiming that “Black Lives Matter,” while also recognizing there is much yet to be done for the truth that is the full humanity of Black people to be embraced by people and institutions across society.
As an educator, a leader, and a Catholic, I am compelled to do everything in my power to assist in making a better world through helping develop in others the skill and desire to dismantle any beliefs in hierarchies of human worth and value. Juneteenth provides me with the hope that our children may finally live in a society where, thanks to the increasing transformation of individuals from nonracists to antiracists, they may be able to fully focus their energy on thriving as their whole and authentic selves.
Juneteenth brings me joy rooted in solidarity. The hope filling my heart in witnessing the struggle of Black people in America beginning to transform into a national priority through genuine acts of solidarity is invaluable. Just this week, the Douglas County Board of Health declared racism a public health crisis, showing true solidarity and empathy with Black people and so many others who find themselves marginalized due to racism.
Juneteenth gives me faith in the voice of the people. For generations, there has been a deafening silence among far too many members of America’s white majority. More white allies and other non-Black allies than ever before are boldly speaking out in support of the powerful voices of Black people who have been advocating for themselves and the wholeness of their humanity all along.
Juneteenth reminds me of the importance of truth. We should not falsely assume that our society’s systems were designed for the freedom and flourishing of Black people. Every opening and opportunity Black people have found in this nation has been earned through tireless work and determination. We must never forget that truth.
Recently Creighton University President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, has been calling upon all of us in our University community to do more, and it is inspiring to see the many ways in which individuals across Creighton are indeed engaging to do more and make a better world. That is the promise of transformation we find in Juneteenth.
Christopher M. Whitt, PhD
Vice Provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion