As the energy behind the fight for racial equality and against police brutality remains strong nationwide following the senseless murder of George Floyd, the movement closes in one of the country’s most important anniversaries.

Two months after the Civil War ended and nearly two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger informed the residents of Galveston, Texas that Lincoln had freed the slaves on June 19, 1865, later known as Juneteenth.

Fast forward 155 years later, Juneteenth is a holiday that is recognized by 47 states (Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota are the three states who do not). On Tuesday, Virginia introduced legislation to make June 19 a paid holiday, joining only Texas as the only state to take that action. Major companies such as Nike, Target and Best Buy are also making the day a paid day off for their workers leading up to the 2020 edition.

There seems to be momentum building observing Juneteenth as a federal holiday in this country, thanks in part to the current protests and demonstrations geared toward societal change.

However, on a day meant to celebrate the true freedom of all, recent days have put a spotlight on how marginalized groups still feel separate from the rest.

Last week, President Donald Trump announced that he would hold his first campaign rally since the COVID-19 pandemic on June 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of an infamous moment regarding race in this country.

Tulsa was home of “Black Wall Street,” a thriving, self-sufficient and prosperous Black business district. But after the Tulsa Tribune reported that a black man, Dick Rowland, attempted to rape a white woman, Sarah Page, a white mob rioted the community. Charges against Rowland were eventually dropped, but not after roughly 300 people were killed, nearly all of the area’s businesses were burned down and 9,000 black people were left homeless.

“Black Wall Street” never recovered.

For the president to select a site marked by such tragedy on a day meant to commemorate the end of slavery during this racial climate was, at best, a woeful miscalculation and, at worst, a dog whistle to racists in his base.

Despite the division, Trump, to his credit, decided to move his rally back a day, but the insensitive damage was already done.

Then, last Friday, the Trump administration chose to roll back an Obama-era policy that banned health care providers from denying care against transsexual patients. The news broke on the four-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, in which 49 people plus the perpetrator were murdered at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Again, in a time when much of the country have taken to the streets to fight against discrimination and on a day where the LGBT community grieves the second deadliest mass shooting in United States history, the administration chose to take away the rights from said community. Not to mention, June is recognized as Pride month. Frankly, even if it’s not intentional, that timing couldn’t be worst.

Three days after the rollback was announced, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-to-3 vote that gay, lesbian and transgender workers were protected from discrimination in their workplace. That is certainly a victory for the community, but that 72-hour stretch perfectly encapsulates its struggle: one step forward and one step back.

One person who fought for the LGBT community was Oluwatoyin Salau, a 19-year-old black woman who recently graduated from in Tallahassee, Fla. Salau was an active participant in Black Lives Matter protests and most notably delivered an impassioned plea for the movement to be more inclusive following the death of fellow Tallahassee resident Tony McDade, a trans man killed by police last month.

On June 6, Salau was reported missing. Earlier that day, she took to Twitter to tweet that she was sexually assaulted. One week later, Salau’s body, along with a 75-year-old woman named Victoria Sims, was found dead on the southeast side of the city.

Aaron Glee Jr., a 49-year-old black man, was charged with felony murder and kidnapping. Glee Jr. is not believed to be connected Salau's June 6 incident.

Injustice after injustice. Tragedy after tragedy. All of which circles the conversation back to Juneteenth. No, this is not 1865, but considering the struggles of various groups, how free are we really?

Spoken as a man who was born in this country, I think the United States of America is the greatest land in the world, but with so many people being mistreated, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be held to a higher standard.

The protests since Memorial Day are a sign that the public realizes that, and those demonstrations have resulted in a variety of changes, from steps toward police reform to the removal of several confederate monuments. But there’s still a ways to go.

Part of that falls on our leaders, as much of the issues can be categorized as systematic. But I also issue a challenge to us, the people.

Any kind of discrimination should be called out, even if it takes a close look in the mirror. We have to ask how are we complicit in making so many feel like they don’t belong.

Addressing racism is at the forefront of this movement and the following phrase has since been popularized: It’s not enough to be not racist, the aim should be anti-racist. Racism isn’t the only battle, though. It also isn’t enough to not be homophobic, the aim should be anti-homophobic. Lastly, it isn’t enough to not be sexist, the aim should be anti-sexism and anti-violence towards women.

Can we actually treat everyone equally and provide them with equal rights? Can everyone live life without fear of harm and feel like they’re protected? As of today, that might largely be true, but largely isn’t good enough.

On June 19, 2020, we may not have slaves, but so many of us are far from free.

Patrick Bernadeau is a sports writer for the West Central Tribune of Willmar.