A yr in the past, many Individuals have been unaware of the importance of Juneteenth, however because the nation endured a racial reckoning — throughout which systemic racism turned an everyday subject of dialog — the vacation shortly gained recognition outdoors of the Black group. Now, Congress has handed a invoice that formally designates Juneteenth as a federal vacation. For a lot of, this will likely really feel like a symbolic win for progress. Nevertheless, Juneteenth now has the potential to be oversimplified, commercialized, and appropriated. In order we acquire this nationwide vacation to honor the enslaved — who survived the unthinkable — let’s bear in mind its significance and do our half to not reduce it.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the date that enslaved individuals in Galveston, TX, have been lastly knowledgeable that they have been free. Throughout the Black group, and particularly for Black Texans, Juneteenth is a celebratory ritual, symbolic of struggle, triumph, pain, joy, and resilience. “Juneteenth continues to be vital, not simply because it marks the top of slavery, however as a result of it turns into a ritualized, political vacation that tells and retells the story of Black people’s ongoing struggle in a nation that is so invested in forgetting,” Jarvis Givens, PhD, a professor and historian, mentioned in an interview with the Harvard Graduate Faculty of Schooling.
Whereas the popularity of Juneteenth as a nationwide vacation supplies a chance to have extra open and sincere conversations about our nation’s historical past of racial violence and trauma, I am involved in regards to the potential commercialization and commodification of this vacation, imagining the ushering in of Juneteenth retail gross sales utilizing the low cost code FREEDOM to get 10 p.c off. (Please, no.) Juneteenth is so vital to my household and plenty of others who’re descendants of the enslaved. So earlier than you threat appropriating this significant vacation to the Black group, listed here are some methods you possibly can respectfully honor it as an alternative.
1. Be taught the true which means of the vacation.
You could have the break day from work or college now, so use that point as a chance to study in regards to the significance of Juneteenth and the affect of chattel enslavement and systemic racism. Vacation celebrations can typically give the impression that we have overcome the horrors of the previous, and it is vital to suppose critically about slavery and racism and do the inner work inside your sphere of affect to make change.
We have seen different holidays, akin to Memorial Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, be commodified by capitalism, so let’s decide to retaining the sanctity of Juneteenth, recognizing the previous in addition to the challenges that proceed to delay freedom and justice for Black people in the US.
2. Don’t acceptable Black tradition.
This isn’t the time to throw themed events or experiment with the Black coiffure you have at all times wished to strive. Our tradition isn’t a dressing up or one thing so that you can tackle and off. Partaking in these acts diminishes the atrocities of enslavement and additional contributes to systemic racism. Juneteenth honors the wrestle of delayed freedom that my ancestors endured, so don’t trivialize their wrestle by enjoying costume up.
3. Do help Black companies.
The establishment of slavery is a direct contributor to the systemic racism we see at present, explaining the disproportionate wealth hole within the US. A significant approach to rejoice the day is to help Black companies in your native space or nationwide organizations working to uplift and put money into Black entrepreneurs, creatives, kids, and the group as an entire.
4. Do the work to battle towards systemic racism.
None of us are free till all of us are free. With the present assault on voting rights, mass incarceration, inequities inside schooling, a disproportionate generational financial hole, and a proposed ban on instructing truthfully about race and racism, it’s obvious that we have to have a deeper understanding of our historical past and, extra importantly, of the accountability we bear in Black liberation.
So do the work to problem racism inside your individual sphere of affect and past. Meaning first doing the work with your self. Get uncomfortable, ask the powerful questions, transfer previous the studying lists, and get to work. What are you prepared to surrender for the good thing about others? Lives have been and proceed to be destroyed by the entangled programs of energy and oppression. What might be your accountability in constructing new programs tethered to justice?