I moved to Amarillo, Texas for my first on air Meteorologist job in January, 1999. After spending time on air, I would be asked to participate in Community Events. The local chamber of commerce has a BBQ event they hosted and each year the station would compete, we would broadcast live, and I would eat my weight in BBQ. I also was able to be in a team penning event – exhibition, of course. I can say it was the first time I had either ridden a horse or worn cowboy boots. The most impactful, though, was when I was asked to be a judge for the Juneteenth parade.
Exactly 20 years ago today, I sat on that parade stage with Black Community Leaders who treated me with kindness. The man next to me leaned over and asked, “Do you know what Juneteenth is, Randy?” Young, naive, and midwestern white, I shook my head, embarrassed. He proceeded to explain the significance of Juneteenth as the true end of Slavery and a marker of Black independence within the United States of America. I listened and wondered why I never knew, why I wasn’t taught this momentous marker in history.
I cannot tell you who placed in the parade, I cannot tell you the name of this gracious leader. I can tell you that I was humbled to be part of such an important celebration, and frustrated by my lack of knowledge.
I, like many other white people across the globe, realize that I grew up in an education system made for me. I didn’t know about Juneteenth because it wasn’t taught to me in my central Minnesota hometown history classes. I didn’t know about Juneteenth because my hometown was generationally white and not pressed to think beyond that whiteness.
I’m on a journey, as we all are, to understand the difference between racist and anti-racist actions, policies, and positions. The kindness shown to me on a parade stage twenty years ago pushes me to be better. It reminds me to do my own work of filling in the holes left from my history classes. It motivates me to listen more, learn a lot, and take anti-racist actions where I can.