Today is Juneteenth. On this day, 155 years ago, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, bringing news to the last enslaved African Americans that they were finally emancipated. The news came to them more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and two months after the end of the Civil War. More than a century and a half later, their descendants still face systemic racism in nearly every aspect of their lives, an often brutal truth that leaves true freedom still out of reach.
But there is hope that progress is within reach. This week, as people of all backgrounds continue to pour into streets across the country to declare that Black Lives Matter, came a reminder of why we protest in the first place: that America still holds great promise, and that progress is possible when we pursue all avenues of justice for every community in the Audubon family. We are an organization of people united by birds.
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the White House cannot immediately end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA provides provisional protection from deportation to approximately 700,000 young immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. as undocumented children and raised here—some of whom work at Audubon or are part of our chapter and volunteer network. The program also offers them temporary permits to work and study in the only country most of them can remember.
On Monday, in a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, also prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Despite the past decade’s rapid pace of LGBTQIA+ civil rights victories, only 21 states offer workplace protections in all settings on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. Audubon has had a policy protecting LGBTQIA+ employees for more than a decade, so it is validating to have the weight of federal law behind that decision.
None of this should blind us to the enormous amount of work left undone. Even as we protest systemic racism and the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor, the murder of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta reminds us why we must continue to advocate for a more just nation. LGBTQIA+ people of color still suffer from dual disparities in nearly every measure of wellbeing, with transgender women in particular facing appalling rates of violence. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote, we are still far from equal representation. And the future of Dreamers is far from certain.
Dreamers, Black people, and LGBTQIA+ people are also bird lovers, scientists, and conservationists—their contributions to protect birds are important. At a time when some seek to tear us apart we know that the right to clean air, clean water and a safe place to live are universal American values. If you find joy in birds, you are part of Audubon’s family. Dreamers and LGBTQIA+ people, congratulations on the Supreme Court victories this week. And to everyone fighting for equality and justice, thank you for your bravery.