By Vanessa Rivers
“Juneteenth” commemorates the belated liberation of enslaved people in the Confederacy, who didn’t manage to escape to Union lines during the Civil War or found themselves in occupied territory when the war ended. The enslaved people were not freed by their owners, even though they were made free by Lincoln’s proclamation of emancipation on January 1, 1863. The Union Army brought the announcement of the abolition of slavery on June 19, 1865 to the state of Texas and the southern United States.
I might not know much, but I do know that American’s love a good celebration, whether its celebrating a sports team victory, or holiday’s like Memorial Day and the 4th of July, so why not celebrate “Juneteenth”? Growing up, I really don’t remember any “Juneteenth” celebrations, but I could be wrong. What I do know is that Juneteenth isn’t a Federal Holiday, I couldn’t have missed that. Right now, the celebrations are held locally by cities and communities coming together for events in parks, parades, day of service and other events to bring attention to what should be, a major celebration, and not just for black people. That brings me to my question; “why isn’t Juneteenth a Federal Holiday”?
The Civil War was fought over the abolition of “black bodies being forced to work for free to make money for white bodies”, and those “white bodies being pissed off that they would have to get off their lazy asses and make their own way in this world”. Sorry, I got a little carried away, but that’s what it boiled down to. People “down south” just love commemorating their “southern heritage”, you know the memories of lynching, burning, dismembering, drowning, beating and raping black people without any fear of accountability, so I guess that they wouldn’t want to celebrate a holiday that stopped all of that. Did I say, “stopped all of that”, I meant “legally stopped all of that”. The emancipation of enslaved people should have been the end to all that ugliness, by welcoming the new members of society, with open arms. We all know how that turned out, don’t we? It’s very sad, because as a people, we are so forgiving, and were willing to move on, and get about living our God given right to freedom, but white people then and now, just wouldn’t and won’t let it go.
There should be a Federal Holiday to commemorate America finally turning the corner away from the unrighteousness of enslaving an entire race of people. There should be a federal celebration to give our country a collective “pat on the back” for treating all people regardless of race, creed, ethnicity or religion as equals, but we can’t, because we haven’t. We as a nation (white people) haven’t turned that corner yet, because with the election of DJT, white folks are wearing the scarlet-letter “R”, for “racism” loud and proud. As I am writing this, I am watching how families from Central and South America are being separated at the border, many are seeking asylum from the horror of their own countries. Babies and toddlers are being taken away from their mothers, without the conscious, that this is horrific treatment, because, treating black and brown people inhumanely is truly “American”.
America must acknowledge that the enslavement of black people was an inhumane and shameful part of our history, make restitution to their descendants, and actively work towards becoming the nation that “we say, we are, on paper”. Until that happens, the majority of America will never see the importance of celebrating the abolishment of slavery.