Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day. Historically known as Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day, and Emancipation Day. Commemorating when slaves in remote regions of the US learned of the freedom granted to them three years earlier. (Imagine being free for THREE years and not knowing it.)
One hundred nine years later, Juneteenth has become a federal holiday. But what does this recognition mean? Is it a step towards equality, is it pandering, or fools gold? Maybe not pandering but certainly not the progress that activists are seeking. If we are not vigilant this moment will become fools gold.
My first thought upon hearing Juneteenth would become a federal holiday, was "who asked for that"? There are a plethora of issues the federal government could tackle. Voting rights, redlining, policing, reparations, education, ETC. In some form, each of these issues has come up in congress. Yet, they have either not been brought for a vote or haven't passed. It is striking to me that this among ALL the bills would sail through.
Understand, I do believe it is important for the government to acknowledge Juneteenth, because recognition matters. But this is ONLY recognition. In 2021, recognition is a far cry from the work of dismantling systemic racism, the damage it has done to a community, and its lasting social, economic, and mental effects. Instead, the real effect of making Juneteenth a federal holiday may be a distraction from the real work of progress.