This Badge

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration marking the official end to slavery in the United States. In December 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, officially abolishing slavery. An estimated 250,000 slaves were emancipated on June 19, 1865. Celebrations on June 19 took place the following year, and the holiday stuck.

This year’s observance of Juneteenth is particularly poignant, given the numerous events of the past several weeks that have a direct or indirect connection to alleged and actual racism. Unless you’ve been hibernating, you’re well aware of the events I have in mind.

Highly publicized outcry following the death of a black man in the process of being arrested has catalyzed not only peaceful protests calling for justice but also violent riots and calls for defunding police forces across the nation. Can you imagine living in a nation with no law enforcement?

Recently I read a report from the NYPD that hundreds of police officers were injured during New York City’s protests over George Floyd’s death. Officers were hit in the head with bricks and glass bottles, and watched as their patrol cars went up in flames.

Here are words I recently saw that offer very important perspectives on officers of the law. It was obviously intended to speak to those who dislike or even hate law enforcement officers, perceiving them to be untrustworthy, uncaring, disrespectful, insensitive, and undisciplined.

THIS BADGE

You hate me because I wear a badge.
Let me tell you about this badge and the thousands of men and women it represents.
This badge ran towards certain death as the Towers collapsed on 9-11.
This badge ran into the line of fire to save the people in the Pulse Night Club in Orlando.
This badge sheltered thousands as bullets rained down from the Mandalay Hotel in Las Vegas.
This badge protected a Black Lives Matter rally that left five officers dead in Dallas.
This badge ran into the Sandy Hook School to stop an active shooter in Connecticut.
This badge has done CPR on your drowned child in your back yard.
This badge has physically subdued the wife beater who left his spouse in a coma.
This badge has run into burning buildings to save the occupants.
This badge has waded through flood waters to rescue the elderly trapped on the roof.
This badge has intentionally crashed into the wrong way driver to protect innocent motorists.
This badge has helped find the lost child so his mother would stop crying hysterically.
This badge has helped the injured dog off the road and rushed it to the vet.
This badge has bought food for hungry kids because they had been abandoned.
This badge has been soaked in blood and tears.
This badge has escorted the elderly woman across the street because she couldn’t see well and was afraid to cross.
This badge has been covered by a mourning band to honor those who have sacrificed everything in service.
This badge has been shot and killed for simply existing.

You may hate me because I wear this badge. But I wear it with pride. Despite your hate and your anger, I will await the next call for help. And I will come running without hesitation. Just like the thousands of men and women across this great nation who wear this badge. ~Author Unknown

What’s the bottom line? A Facebook post says it well: “Please do not let the officer who murdered George Floyd define what you think about law enforcement officers in general. There are so many phenomenal officers out there who put their life on the line for us every day and they do not deserve the hate.” Well spoken.

My prayer is that our gracious God would direct and protect officers of the law in the performance of their duties, guiding them to use restraint when possible, judicious forcefulness when necessary, and at all times, wisdom and discernment when dealing with every person, regardless of race, color, or creed, especially in circumstances requiring split-second decisions that have life and death consequences for all involved, always respecting “the Constitutional rights of all persons to liberty, equality and justice.” (Texas Police Association Code of Ethics) http://www.texaspoliceassociation.com/codeofethics.php

“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” Proverbs 21:15

Juneteenth

SlaveryTomorrow is a day of special importance, particularly for people whose ancestors spent all or at least part of their lives in slavery in America. An article titled History of Juneteenth provides a summary of this special day (juneteenth.com/history.htm). Here are excerpts:

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863.

General Granger read this order: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. The desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America.

Recounting that historic day in 1865, June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” as a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on that date.

On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official holiday in the state of Texas through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. Legislation he introduced marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration with official state recognition.

Today Juneteenth is celebrated in many ways and many places, with institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum and others sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities.

Significantly, the apostle Paul wrote a long time ago these words in Galatians 3:26-28: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

Happy Juneteenth!