First Word

June 20, 2020 Newsletter

Irish America Editor-in-Chief Patricia Harty

We mourn the loss this past week of Jean Kennedy Smith. She was an indomitable woman of style and substance. Like all her family, she was involved in work that supported the marginalized, and as Niall O’Dowd writes, she was hugely influential in the Irish peace process. To fully appreciate the work she did as Ambassador to Ireland watch Donald Keough’s introduction of Jean at her Irish America Hall of Fame induction. It says it all.

That same year that we inducted Jean into our Irish America Hall of Fame, we inducted then Vice President Joe Biden. With the welcome news of the Supreme Court ruling barring President Trump from deporting the Dreamers any time soon, we turn to Biden’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech. In it he addresses immigration and discrimination issues, and shows what a great president he would make.

We need someone like Joe Biden to help heal the divide in this country. And more people like Andrew Cuomo, who issued an executive order recognizing Black Emancipation Day (June 19th, 1865), saying he will advance legislation to make “Juneteenth” an official state holiday next year.

It’s a surprise to some, but not to Christine Kinealy, that Black abolitionists visited Ireland more than 150 years ago. This week, we bring you another story from her new book on the subject.

As Gov. Cuomo said, “Although slavery ended over 150 years ago, there has still been rampant, systemic discrimination and injustice in this state and this nation.”

As we reflect on the changes that need to be made, to create in his words “a more fair, just and equal society,” we cannot be anything but deeply troubled about the shooting of Rayshard Brooks. Another innocent black man killed by a police officer.

Rayshard Brooks wasn’t pulled over because he had been driving erratically and a danger to others, he was in a parking lot. Ask yourself, would the first officer on the scene with an Irish sounding name, Devin Brosnan, have called for backup if some Irish guy was asleep at the wheel? An Irish guy who said it was his daughter’s birthday the following day and that he would leave his car and walk home to his sister’s house just a couple of blocks away. Would that officer have shown mercy or some common human decency?

That officer probably would have given the Irish guy a lift home.

We can and must do better.

In other stories we celebrate Father’s Day, Summer Solstice, horse racing, and summer reading, and we bring you an update on the proposed new power-sharing government in Ireland.

Visit our archives – over 20 years of Irish America – at Irishamerica.com.

Mórtas Cine

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