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Today brings more needed focus to racism

Today we mark a day that has come to be known as “Juneteenth,” a commemoration of liberation from American slavery.

Although President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, essentially ordering the freeing of slaves, the Civil War did not officially end until June 2, 1865. And word of the Emancipation Proclamation did not reach the last stronghold of slavery, in Galveston, Texas, until June 19, 1865 — more than two-and-a-half years after it was issued.

It was on that date that Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with news the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free.

Today, 155 years later, racial division and discrimination sadly, remain very prevalent in our nation — the place where all men, all people, were supposedly created equal.

The events of recent weeks have demonstrated that many Americans don’t see things that way.

Division and racism in our nation was brought to the forefront with the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer.

Since then, we have experienced unrest in the form of protests in our streets across the country, rallies, including several locally, and even National Football League players promising again to begin kneeling during the national anthem. It’s all in an effort to raise awareness of the racist attitudes and inequality that still exist.

We are glad to see elected leaders locally and nationwide focusing attention and leading discussions on this very important issue.

Today, for instance, on this national day of freedom, Youngstown City Council will vote to declare racism a public health crisis.

City council previously had discussed the decla- ration, and Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, said the resolution was important because racism “leads to a shorter lifespan — less access to health care, employment, healthy food.” Passing the resolution will enable the city to take steps to work on reducing racism, he said.

Indeed, racism deserves the attention it has been receiving. In order to be dealt with in the way that it needs to be, it requires the focus of our elected leaders, of local community organizations and of all neighbors.

It requires all of us to fight hate.

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