Today is Juneteenth. A day when, 155 years ago, the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas found out about their emancipation. A day that came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had already freed them (on paper) from slave owners.
Today, amid police brutality, rampant racism, the lynchings of black men deemed suicides, and the assault and murder of Oluwatoyin Salau, a 19-year-old Black Lives Matter activist, Juneteenth deserves more than a national holiday.
If you haven’t taken the time to educate yourself on the historic plight of Black Americans, pause and go read my previous post. If you have, it’s time for some reflection.
In the last month, it has become obvious that the systemic racism that has fueled America for centuries will no longer be tolerated. But this isn’t a new concept. People have been fighting for the rights of Black people in America for basically as long as America has existed. And America comes up with bullshit excuses for the behavior every time.
Whether it’s Confederate monuments or flags, statues of racists upheld because they’re “part of history,” or voting rights being consistently stripped from Black people, shitty Americans always feel it’s their right to be proud of their history.
But this history is nothing to be proud of.
These are often the same people who feel they shouldn’t have to take the blame for their ancestors’ wrongdoings. Or those who feel not all white people are bad, but think that everyone from the Middle East is a terrorist (and don’t feel the same about white men who shoot up elementary schools, gay clubs, or country concerts). These tropes are ignorant, disgusting, and dangerous, and lead to deeply ingrained stereotypes and profiling.
We can’t allow these people who oppose progress to erase and whitewash history any longer. Ignorance may be bliss for these individuals, but it’s detrimental to society at large. And they’ve done enough damage already.
History books tell stories of courageous Britains who traversed the seas to establish their freedom in America, but they forget to mention that Indigenous people still face the repercussions of colonialism across the world. America still refuses to listen to Indigenous people’s concerns today.
The pandemics of 1918, 1957, 1968, and 2009 gave us ample insight to prepare for Covid-19. And if nothing else, the epidemiologists who study this and the successful responses of other countries should have been enough for America to model. But instead we have an administration highlighting all of its own great work like a football team slapping each other’s asses after a great game when the reality is that America has managed the coronavirus worse than most freshmen in college manage STDS.
And I don’t say this to undermine today’s importance, but to point out that while America tries to bury its unpleasantries, it’s refusing to allow current citizens and future generations to learn from our mistakes. It’s historic, systemic gaslighting and it’s propagating more ignorance with every passing day.
This is why Juneteenth needs to be a national holiday.
Not so anyone is forced to celebrate it (as I’ve heard white people crying about), but so it can’t be overlooked anymore.
With more information, people are better educated. With more education, people can better understand the experiences of others. And with empathy, people won’t go out in public refusing to wear masks, they won’t stand behind the racists who founded America on principles of hypocrisy and power, and they won’t fight people who are demanding to be treated with basic human decency and granted basic human rights.
Juneteenth, along with the millions of Black Americans who have been shouting for reform, deserve your undivided attention, self-education, and systemic change. Because it’s become all too clear that in America, we don’t learn form our past, and we regularly repeat it.
With love and less patience for ignorance each day,