As a biracial woman there have been many things throughout my life that I’ve learned are “black”, not just something every person does, knows, etc. Some random examples of this are the fact that I squirrel away lotion all around the house because the dryness that is my skin can never be quenched (do non-black people get “ashy”?). There’s also the time I was talking with some people about favorite holiday movies and mine was Preacher’s Wife (I was met with a lot of blank stares).
This, unfortunately includes things like culture (that hasn’t been stolen or heavily borrowed from, that is) and our history. I was reminded of this when I met my husband, a well-informed non-black man. His birthday is actually the same date as Juneteenth, yet he had never heard of it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely looked up my birthday to see what other people have my birthday (I’m looking at you Jesse Owens!), or what events occurred. He had too and told me that in all the times he’s looked up his birthday, Juneteenth has never ever shown up.
All of this to say, Juneteenth is part of American history and should not be thought of something that is “just black”. Some Black people celebrate it and I would guess almost every Black American knows about it. The fact of the matter is Black history is American history and the longer it’s not treated that way, the longer Black people will be treated as “other” and racism is perpetuated.
So what is Juneteenth? It is on June 19th and is essentially celebrating the end of slavery. While some argue slavery ended when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation or when he stated
“slaves within any State, or designated part of a State…in rebellion,…shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
on January 1st, 1863, years later on June 19th, 1865 was when it started being communicated to slaves in rural Texas. This date then the following year was officially celebrated as Juneteenth.
I am, obviously no historian, so if you want more details here are a few articles about it:
I’m not sure what Juneteenth will look like this year with the ‘rona, but in previous years many Black Americans would celebrate with picnics, BBQs, etc. as a time to come together as a community. While these gatherings are never restricted to just Black folks, I would caution you to be extra mindful if you decide to attend as a non-Black person. These gatherings are meant to be a safe space of community gathering. This means don’t make the party or gathering about you, don’t expect people to do the emotional labor of educating you about “all things Black”, and be understanding if you are asked to leave.
This holiday brings about mixed feelings, especially this year as the nation finally takes notice of how much systemic racism is still alive in America. Some might ask, Are we truly free?
And others are just taking it day-by-day, pausing for celebration and reflection.
I love that my husband’s birthday is on Juneteenth because there’s always a celebration already planned. The fact that it’s Juneteenth, another cause for celebration, is an added bonus.
Hopefully this post has given you something to reflect on. It certainly makes me wonder why Juneteenth isn’t a major holiday or how many other “black things” people don’t know about, but should.