It’s not just a “long weekend”. It’s June 10th.
“I’m looking forward to the long weekend! “” So we are leaving tomorrow. “” I am so happy that we have this Friday off! And the list goes on and on with recent comments I’ve had to navigate the virtual workplace. The mentioned “day off” is June 15th and unlike July 4th, I haven’t received any questions about my plans or if I’m “doing something fun” for the holidays. People are more likely to wish me a “Happy St. Patrick’s Day,” which is not an American holiday or a day off. Simplifying Juneteenth to Long weekend is yet another example of a typical microaggression that I face, and many others like me, while I’m black in corporate America.
I found myself having to remind people that we weren’t just on vacation this Friday, June 18, for the sake of the summer; we were gone, like many companies now, for a whole new federal holiday commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. At the same time, I saw some of my white colleagues and friends, many of whom didn’t know what Juneteenth was until last year, now championing the holidays. But if you too are on leave on June 10, what are you doing to come to terms with the fact that this feast day for many is now just another day of rest for you?
Granted, I had never celebrated June 17 before 2020. I attributed it to never having received a full education on vacations, or even on black America in general, in the same way as schools. teach on July 4th “Independence Day”. I never had time to party and just didn’t quite understand what my grandmother was always talking about when she explained that June 15th was our true freedom day. I often feel like this a TikTok trend, where you recount a particularly squeaky moment while Gia Giudice’s “Sad Song” plays in the background. I hear the lyrics “Waking up in the morning / Thinking about so many things / I just wish things would get better” as I relate the whole of July 4 that I spent dressing in red, white and blue to celebrate someone else’s liberation day, at a time when black people were still slaves.
When people consider white supremacy and the spaces it occupies, imagery quickly points to burning crosses on lawns or men wearing sharp white hoods. While it’s part of its long history, white supremacy is also more mundane, more nuanced. It’s the day-to-day systems and interactions that made it happen, until last year Juneteenth was never recognized nationally. He spends centuries celebrating only the freedom of whites, while slavery persisted for nearly a century after the declaration of independence, contributing to the erasure of black history. He rarely teaches Juneteenth in schools, and thus ignores the whole truth about black slavery in this country.
But how did Juneteenth even break into the larger national conversation? Last summer was a wake-up call for many. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd were killed within months of each other. Even in a country where black death and black pain are so common, this assault was particularly devastating. The pandemic ensured that people were at home and glued to the internet, with little choice but to sit, watch, read, and grapple with what was – and happened – in front of their eyes. doors. No one could ignore it. All eyes were forcibly riveted on these tragedies.
For the first time, so many of my counterparts had to deal with this trauma, the same way I have since I was a child. At only nine years old, I discovered Amadou Diallo, a A black immigrant from Guinea, shot dead by four police officers after mistaking him for a rape suspect in a year-old case. The officers were acquitted of all charges. It was then that I was able to truly understand the racial injustices that exist in this country, especially around black interactions with the police. For years, I sat with this knowledge, the same kind that whites in 2020 seemed to just learn.
In response to this widespread focus on the importance of black lives, people were eager to take to social media to post about how they listened to and educated themselves, promising to do the kind of work that must persist a lifetime. A way came in June 2020, when people requisitioned a call from Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, two black music executives, to suspend the daily activities of the music industry for a day of reflection. Instead, an overwhelming number of people took it upon themselves to post a black square on social media that day, as an easy way to signal that they weren’t racist.
Then came Juneteenth, when companies were eager to give up their employees after years of ignoring the holidays. But overall, as brands and individuals began to make grand commitments, the reality of work quickly took hold. she founded alongside Chrissy Rutherford after the two went viral for denouncing the performative alliance of brands and influencers – or a deafening silence – last year. Since then, Rutherford and Prescod have used 2BG to formalize their anti-racism training and inspire brands and influencers to do more than publish a black box. (They also donate some of their profits to black organizations.) “If the black squares increased on June 2, June 7, they were like, ‘Is this fixed? Had finished. It’s summer vacation time. I would definitely say by July, [the urgency] was finished. If you really think about it, there has been a lot of gossip around Juneteenth. Chrissy and I even had clients we had to tell them, “You can’t celebrate June 15th, then say something about freedom and independence on July 4th.”
“Everyone’s number one fear is being exposed,” Rutherford adds. “So they feel like they made that commitment on June 2, they walked through the fire and now they just have to keep their heads down, post a few blacks here and there and you’ll be fine.” And now that no one is really watching us, we can start doing what’s easiest for us again. “
We are there now, almost a year later, after the collective discovery of white America that racism still exists in our country. Black squares have been displayed. There were commitments to listen and to learn. We have the Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday. But which of these actions translates into material improvements for blacks? As Congressman Cori Bush mentionned on Twitter, it’s Juneteenth and much more, it’s reparations, an end to police violence, an end to housing inequalities, and a widespread and solid truth about white supremacy.
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So on your day off, I challenge you to take some real action. I challenge you to listen and learn and then do. If you observe Juneteenth as someone white, how do you use your time, voice, and resources to make sure black people experience real freedom and justice the same way you do? Do you want to raise the bar or keep it on the ground? Before you share your excitement for another day off with your black coworker or friend who is waiting to see the Emmett Till Antilynching law passed or the effects of redlining to deal with, think about what this day actually does for black people as you. know. As we absolutely take the day to remember, ask yourself what you did to be a part of the celebration.
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