Dear Karen et al., I know you’re accustomed to convenience and instant gratification, so I’ll make this one quick. I hate to burst your bubble, but this “Juneteenth thing” that you keep hearing all the buzz about, is NOT the Black Coachella foreshadowed by Beyoncé during her 2018 performance. We actually call that Beychella, which has nothing specifically to do with Juneteenth (I can only imagine how floored you must be right now, but don’t freak out I’m here to help). Now, before you approach Imani and Kesha in the break room on Monday inquiring about all things Juneteenth, knotless box braids, and if they agree that #allpetlivesmatter should be painted on the streets as well, take a moment to read this…
First things first, let’s breakdown the name…Juneteenth. This is what we call a portmanteau of June and nineteenth (side note, thanks in advance for always pointing out how well-spoken you think I am after a word with three or more syllables comes out of my mouth; your facial expressions make me also second-guess where the word came from). Now back to June and nineteenth merging to get Juneteenth, it’s kind of like how we take breakfast and lunch and get brunch! Next, we know location is everything, so let’s talk about where Juneteenth began. So, you know how like our girl Beyoncé was born in Texas? So was Juneteenth; the only difference is Beyoncé was born in Houston, whereas Juneteenth originated about 50 miles away in Galveston.
Now, contrary to our most trusted news source aka social media, Juneteenth isn’t the latest holiday to come out of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement; it’s actually been a thing for like 155 years (go figure; they completely skipped over this in elementary school when we were taught U.S. history. Again, no worries girl, I’ve totally got you covered). So, remember how President Abraham Lincoln aka Honest Abe, did the slaves a solid by signing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st 1863, well come to find out, slavery didn’t actually end in all states until about two months after the civil war on June 19th 1865 (which was like a whole two years later). Omg, could you imagine what life would look like not having access to the latest updates or the important deets? For instance, how would you feel if you didn’t learn about TikTok until years later? Complete nightmare right? So just imagine how those poor slaves must’ve felt…#BigMad.
So basically, we have two Independence Days in the United States, but only one is observed as a national holiday. This is the one you’re probably familiar with aka the 4th of July. I mean, who could possibly not celebrate the day America finally got its independence from Great Britain in 1776? Granted, Black people were still slaves for damn near 100 more years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but who really pays attention to small details like this anyway? It may be worth mentioning, while you’re shopping online for matching Old Navy Outfits, sparking up the fireworks, lighting up the grill, and celebrating the birth and freedom of the US next month, Black people weren’t technically considered “people” during this time. Hence the discussion about making Juneteenth a nationally recognized holiday. I mean, think about it, an extra day off would be cheaper than reparations AND all gainfully employed Americans would benefit from this… besides, nothing beats a little interest convergence.
To wrap up our quick lesson and sum it all up, Juneteenth also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day is celebrated as Independence Day in the Black community. But let’s be clear Amy, Black people still aren’t free. So sorry to have confused you.
I can only imagine the number of questions swirling around in your head right now, so I’ve included these FAQs below:
- When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863, what exactly did it do? Not shit. Black people were/are still oppressed in this country. The “freeing” of slaves was simply a transition to indentured servitude commonly referred to as sharecropping.
- What prevented or held up the news about the emancipation of slaves spreading in Texas and other southern parts of the country? According to a 2020 article titled, “12 Things You Might Not Know About Juneteenth” by Stacy Conradt, “News traveled slowly back in those days—it took Confederate soldiers in western Texas more than two months to hear that Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox. Still, some have struggled to explain the 30-month gap between Lincoln’s proclamation and the enslaved people’s freedom, leading to speculation that some Texans suppressed the announcement. Other theories include that the original messenger was murdered to prevent the information from being relayed or that the federal government purposely delayed the announcement to Texas to get one more cotton harvest out of the enslaved workers. But the real reason is probably that Lincoln’s proclamation simply wasn’t enforceable in the rebel states before the end of the war.”
- What did Black People do when they received word that they were finally free? The exact same thing we’re doing today…trying to avoid get lynched, tortured, or imprisoned by white people, seeking means to provide for our families, and committing to upward mobility despite the odds stacked against us . As you could probably imagine, most white people didn’t take too well to the news that they would be losing their “property.” In anticipation, good ole Abe made provisions under General order No.3, where he advised former slaves to “remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages.” They were also informed that they would “not be allowed to collect at military posts [nor would they be] be supported in idleness.” Spoiler alert, government assistance, ie welfare was not created for Black people.
- If Black people were eventually declared free and equal, why can’t they pull themselves up by the bootstraps and thrive like other minority groups in this country? Namely, due to institutionalized/systematic racism which covertly upholds white supremacist culture in most organizations. Black people are still not regarded as equal in this country. Black men are viewed as “threatening” simply based on outward appearance and Black women are deemed “angry” and so we’re forced to fight.. we fight to live, to breathe, to walk, jog, skip, and run. We are denied basic human rights and are being hunted by those expected to serve and protect. We were NEVER given the opportunity to thrive, and so now what we do is figure out the best course of action to survive.
- Is the argument that America should recognize Juneteenth instead of the 4th of July? No. The argument is that America should recognize and celebrate Juneteenth in addition to the 4th of July as they are both milestones in American History. The present day emphasis on Juneteenth is due to this day being historically disregarded as a valid national holiday. What we are experiencing is a resurgence of The Black Renaissance now coined as Black Excellence as Blackness is being celebrated versus just appropriated.
- Why should non-Black people celebrate Juneteenth? Fredrick Douglass gave a famous speech in which he asked, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? As the saying goes, “none of us are free until all of us are free.” This is why we should all be aware of and celebrate Juneteenth.
- Now that major corporations such as Nike, Starbucks, Bath, and Body Works and others are referring to African-Americans as Black, is it okay to use this term? Abso-freaking-lutely. In fact, stop dancing around the word Black, stop becoming visibly uncomfortable when it rolls off your tongue and stop trying to be so damn PC by using terms like people of color, minorities, disenfranchised communities etc. Say Black and don’t forget to capitalize the “B.”
- What does one wear to a Juneteenth Celebration? Whatever you would typically wear mid-June. There is not a current black census on the Congressional Democrats deciding to wear Kente cloth.
- Why are some Black people reluctant to teach others about Juneteenth, The Black Lives Matter Movement, and racial inequity? Because the shit gets exhausting. Some black people believe it is their personal responsibility to educate others in efforts to provide a first-hand account as only a Black person can provide it. While others are looking for our “allies” to not only talk the talk, but also be called to action by researching, reflecting and drastically reforming the systematic white supremacist ideals that infiltrate most American institutions.
- Who is this infamous Karen that Black people speak of? Similar to Barbeque Becky, Wikipedia confirms that Karen is a term used in the United States for a person perceived to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary. A common stereotype is that of a racist white woman who uses her privilege to get her way at the expense of others.
Karen, Becky and Heather, you can all thank me later!
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this sarcastic filled post about the very serious subject of recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday. Let me know how you celebrate Juneteenth. Last, but not least, it is absolutely crucial that while we invite our white friends to join in the celebration of Juneteenth, remind Karen and Becky NOT to bring the potato salad. They will NOT be invited back next year!