The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will adopt an honorary resolution at its meeting today recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth in Santa Barbara County, commemorating when slaves in the United States were freed on June 19, 1865.
According to First District supervisor Das Williams, the adoption of this resolution is in response to the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man, who was killed at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis. Mr. Floyd’s murder has sparked off protests across the country against police brutality and racism, with some protests turning into riots.
“The Juneteenth resolution has everything to do with the nation waking up to the realities of racism, and was one of the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Mr. Williams said.
He added that he hopes the resolution will inspire local residents to celebrate and commemorate slavery’s end in America and remind them that “erasing the inequities of our society takes continuous individual and collective action.”
Second District supervisor and board chair Gregg Hart said recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth provides Santa Barbara residents an opportunity to reflect on slavery’s legacy, recommit themselves to standing up for racial justice, and recognize the progress that has been made in racial equality over the past 155 years while supporting efforts “to end systemic racism and better serve communities of color.”
In addition to the United States’ history of slavery and racial inequality, the resolution’s “whereas” statements cite current inequalities like black Americans being 2.5 times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police, 2.4 times more likely to die from COVID-19 infection and 5 times more likely to be incarcerated.
It also mentions contemporary “systemic racism” that “negatively impacts the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the over 10,000 black residents of Santa Barbara County.”
In Mr. Williams’ opinion, the biggest example of systemic racism in Santa Barbara County is how those judged not guilty by the criminal justice system end up in jail for long periods of time and often for low-level offenses.
“At normal times, 70% or more of our prison population are awaiting trial, which wastes taxpayer money and wastes lives as even the innocent lose jobs and even families while they rot awaiting judgement,” he said.
Though a spotlight is currently directed toward the criminal justice system, Mr. Hart stated that systemic racism extends “from the halls of government to the streets, and from classrooms to workplaces.”
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors begins today at 9 a.m., with remote virtual participation only. A livestream of the meeting can be observed on local cable channel 20, online at countyofsb.org or on the County of Santa Barbara YouTube channel.