Week 3: Reflecting on Juneteenth

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Sunday, June 20, 2021


Guido Dominguez

TLDR; This last weekend was Juneteenth, and if you’d like to find a way to directly support charities and/or organizations dedicated to fighting for racial justice, equality, and equity, please visit here.

This past weekend marked 155 years since enslaved African-Americans in the city of Galveston were finally read the emancipation proclamation and freed, two and a half years after President Lincoln issued the proclamation on January 1st 1863. While the significance of this date was not lost on the millions of Black Americans who’ve celebrated Juneteenth since, it wasn’t until this last Thursday that such an incredible moment in American history was commemorated across the entire United States by officially becoming a federal holiday. 

Both the fact that the original Juneteenth came nearly 3 years after the emancipation proclamation went into effect and the fact that it took 155 years for the federal government to recognize the significance of this holiday reflects just how difficult and slow the march towards equality and justice has been for Black America. And in this same vein, while I applaud the unanimous support of this federal holiday in the Senate and the overwhelming support it received in the House (only 14 members voted against it), it is important that we do not see this as the finish line for efforts to combat racism, promote racial justice, and pursue economic equality for all. Continued pressure must be applied to Congress and the federal government to push them to walk the walk and pass legislation that will make meaningful progress towards addressing the injustices that affect African Americans daily. 

The same racial equity issues that permeate the national dialogue are relevant to the Physics community. While African Americans make up over 15% of the US population that is aged 20-24, they are drastically underrepresented in the number of Physics Bachelor’s and Doctoral degrees awarded, making up only 3% of Bachelor’s Degrees in Physics, and around 2% of PhDs. This is unacceptable and something that our community must continue to address within our college departments and at the national level.

I wanted to take a moment at the top of my blogpost to say these things because with my unexpected day off on Friday I wanted to make sure that I solemnly took the time to reflect on the 155 year journey of this holiday, and everything that has happened since. Writing this blogpost just didn’t feel right without mentioning the historic nature of this last weekend, and yet at the same time how long overdue it was. I hope to be looking back on this blogpost one day in a drastically different and better America than the one I am writing this in. 

In terms of what I did for my internship this week, it was much the same as the last two, but at a much faster pace. In total I sat in on six committee hearings last week, while simultaneously researching and writing summaries on topics relevant to upcoming bills and the fiscal year 2022 budget. I continue to learn a lot about a wider range of topics than I ever imagined I’d be covering in this internship. I am excited for next week, when the committee will be reviewing NASA’s FY2022 budget request and covering waste reduction and recycling research. 

Until next time,

Guido Dominguez (he/him/his)