On June 17, 2021, practically a yr after the homicide of George Floyd, President Joe Biden thought it was a brilliant concept to make Juneteenth an official U.S. vacation—signing it into regulation, to be noticed by all.
“Making Juneteenth a federal vacation is a serious step ahead to acknowledge the wrongs of the previous,” Senate Majority Chief Chuck Schumer (D-NY), mentioned on the time, “however we should proceed to work to make sure equal justice and fulfill the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Structure.”
Rising up in Houston, Juneteenth—an occasion that commemorates June 19, 1865 because the day enslaved Black individuals in Galveston, Texas, discovered they have been free (greater than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed)—was a Black vacation in my hometown.
I bear in mind spending my summers down at Galveston Seaside and watching the procession of embellished vehicles with reside music proceed because the Jubilee parade commenced. I can nonetheless scent the tasty barbeque, bear in mind the gallons of signature pink soda handed round, and all that sizzling sauce doused on my plate because the pink and blue Juneteenth flags have been waved.
Juneteenth was our Fourth of July—a celebration which jogged my memory that the South nonetheless had one thing to say, and that Black individuals didn’t have to attend for the validation of our white friends to assemble round our historical past.
For the reason that racial uprisings of 2020, this sacred vacation has now change into mainstreamed into one thing that now feels whitewashed, co-opted, and extremely performative.
It’s exhausting to witness one thing so private in your life change into ruined on the nationwide stage—that’s the present case with Juneteenth.
I began to note it final yr when Walmart thought it was being progressive after they launched a pink velvet and cheesecake-flavored Juneteenth ice cream with a Pan-African embellished carton.
Enjoyable reality: Juneteenth has by no means integrated African themed colours/designs as a part of its official flag (organizers use pink, white, and blue to duplicate the U.S. and Texas state flags)—Walmart simply couldn’t assist however pander to clients as a approach to flex that they have been recognizing Black individuals. The controversy led to the company to apologize and discontinue the road of tone-deaf ice cream, together with canceling different ill-advised Juneteenth-themed merchandise it was promoting.
But it surely’s not simply Walmart. Final yr, the Kids’s Museum of Indianapolis had to enter full-apology mode after making an attempt to include a watermelon salad as part of its “Juneteenth Jamboree” menu. This yr, a cringy banner created by a Greensville, South Carolina, non-profit internet hosting a Juneteenth occasion made headlines for selling “an upstate celebration of freedom, unity and love” that featured a picture of a white couple.
“Significantly, there are some issues that ought to simply be left alone.”
After public backlash from activists and neighborhood members, the group, Juneteenth GVL Inc, issued an apology on social media.
Even worse, with the rise of far-right conservatism all through the nation—it’s gotten even tougher for teams to even have a good time Juneteenth in peace.
Juneteenth organizers in Pittsburgh at the moment are accusing Pennsylvania legislators and their metropolis authorities of discrimination relating to last-minute mandates for distributors and safety. In Tennessee, some legislators are threatening sponsors—similar to Nashville Worldwide Airport (BNA)—to divest from backing native Juneteenth festivals or face public retaliation for supporting “radical agendas.”
In so some ways, the need to mainstream Juneteenth has now led to a lot of its press and publicity being met with pandering or controversy. It jogs my memory of Black Historical past Month, when maybe there was a second in time during which America tried to take the shortest timeframe of the yr critically to acknowledge the contributions of Black individuals. Or maybe Juneteenth has shortly descended into the rainbow capitalism vibes of Satisfaction month—throughout which extra of the festivities are being monetized for prime visibility, with none intentional give attention to the neighborhood.
So, nice, extra individuals find out about Juneteenth—however how does that truly make sure the very freedoms and ideas of emancipation for Black People that the vacation speaks of?
For what it’s value, symbolism will do nothing to liberate a marginalized group. At a time when racial disparities proceed to worsen and white supremacy feels much more visibly prevalent—firms and metropolis/state governments bandwagoning on Juneteenth celebrations do little or no to fight this actuality.
As with Black Historical past Month, I wish to see these highly effective establishments really put their cash/insurance policies/affect the place their mouths are and let Black individuals have a good time Juneteenth in peace. Significantly, there are some issues that ought to simply be left alone.
Translation: Much less means extra in relation to observing Juneteenth—as a result of our nation’s present infatuation with it’s inflicting extra hurt than good.