On one hand, this is big. Like, really big. Most White people in the U.S. didn’t know about Juneteenth until a few years ago … or maybe still don’t know? Sharing knowledge of history is powerful, sharing the realities of slavery and its legacies, celebrating the “end” is powerful. Particularly for our children. White kids need to know that legal slavery (outside of prisons, anyway) only ended 156 years ago. That even an amendment to the Constitution didn’t deter some folks from capitalizing on the bodies of other folks, using race as an excuse to do evil.
Yet. I can’t help but agree with Prof Armour and Congresswoman Waters. It’s is largely symbolic – MLK Day became a holiday in 1983 … his legacy is twisted and used by politicians for whatever thing they are selling that day. Meanwhile, real policy reform just sits. Juneteenth becoming a holiday seems a slap in the face at the moment when over 30 states are enacting legislation to keep BIPOC from participating in the democratic process.
For White folks … maybe Juneteenth is a day for activism? Black folks have been fighting systemic racism for over 400 years. Juneteenth is a celebration, indeed – it should be. White folks? We have to do better.
When 58% of White Women voted for Trump in 2020? When 14 Republican Representatives couldn’t even deign to vote yes on this largely symbolic legislation? When policing is returning to pre-pandemic norms? When folks across the country are forced into homelessness post pandemic?
White folks: We need to do more learning. We need to get out there and fight for our friends and neighbors.
This Juneteenth I am starting an antiracist course with Academics 4 Black Lives. I will continue to learn how to be more accountable, how to take more action, how to reduce the harm I cause. How to show up for BIPOC students at USC … and how to lead with compassion, collaboration, and connection.
Find something near you, participate. Read a book by a Black author – or 20 books by Black authors. Watch a great show with a Black leads – Girls Trip? Celebrate Black Joy! Celebrate Juneteenth. Find a way to pay reparations … whatever you can do. Show up.