Knowing what we know of the founding fathers, we understand when they wrote the words "a more perfect union," they chose their words carefully. "More perfect" implies imperfect, showing room for improvement.
The last two national holidays recognized in this country are so-called "black" holidays: Martin Luther King Jr. Day (1983) and Juneteenth (2021). Trivial as it may be, this fact reveals a lot about civil rights in the US and the character of our country. The journey has been long. It is incomplete. There is reason for hope.
155 years, 11 months, 29 days
It took nearly eight generations for a country sewn together through the freeing of their slaves to celebrate that which made us a Union. Not to just say it was the right thing to do, but to show, at least on a Federal level, that we're happy we did it. We're better for it; it is worthy of being institutionally enshrined for the next eight generations and beyond. But, like anything imperfect, there remains work to be done. The good news is--we're doing the work. Even if sometimes it feels like things aren't changing.
Change came when the US government sent troops to Texas in 1865 to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. It happened when the supreme court voted that black voices mattered in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Then again, in 2020, when a national movement of our peers rose up and insisted Black Lives Mattered too. These changes were grassroots, they were integrated, and they were majoritarian. More importantly--they affirmed that the preponderance of this country's citizens continue to believe "all men are created equal."
That is what this country was founded on--the promise of equality. Not because of the color of your skin, your gender, or who you love, but because we the people believe "We the People" means every single one of us. No, we aren't there yet--we're an imperfect union, just like the founding fathers predicted, and they made plans for that with a living document to guide our way.
Alexis de Tocqueville once said:
"The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults."
So when we, as people of color, celebrate Juneteenth, yes, we celebrate the end of suffering and bondage our forefathers endured. But greater still, we rejoice as patriots of this great nation whose better ideals continually triumph over our darker angels. And for that, we are proud to call this imperfect country home.
Speck Design is a uniquely and proudly black-owned product design consultancy located in the heart of Silicon Valley/San Jose.