White People Should Have to Work on Juneteenth
America’s newest national holiday deserves exclusive access. Sorry not sorry.
After more than three decades of living in America, I’m rarely surprised by the goings-on in this country. But I must admit, the turn of events of the past 365 have thrown me for a loop.
We’re more than a year removed from the police murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others who were killed due to the color of their skin. We’ve seen the Covid-19 pandemic disproportionately scourge Black and Brown communities nationwide, exposing disparities in the health care system that we’ve long known existed. In January, neo-Confederates invaded the Capitol in a full-on coup attempt and hung a damn noose outside of the building for good measure. And even more recently, conservatives have been pushing to keep curriculum around racism out of public schools.
But don’t worry, America has an ointment for all of this turmoil: Juneteenth.
I thought Juneteenth’s moment in the sun during last spring’s racial reckoning would be fleeting. (Yes, even after Trump claimed he made Juneteenth more famous than a Yankee can.) But a full year later, the annual celebration that began on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, to commemorate the end of legalized American slavery has been officially recognized as a national holiday after being signed into law yesterday by President Biden.
It’s the latest moral victory in a long history of symbolic but ultimately empty measures that do nothing to counter systemic racism. The first national holiday to be declared since MLK Day was federally recognized in 1983, Juneteenth being institutionalized is basically a Band-Aid made of kente cloth.
Now, just because this legislation is performative as hell doesn’t mean I’m above celebrating a day that pays homage to a crucial moment in African American history, as I have for many years. I can appreciate widespread conversation around the Black experience in this country — especially if that dialogue comes with…