Juneteenth Day after generations of struggle for national recognition with local and statewide celebrations for years here and there,is finally a paid federal holiday as of yesterday. If you are an African American like me who grew up in the North with second generation or more deep southern born parents and/ or in majority white communities or in those northern and west coast communities without deep southern African American migrants particularly from Texas, chances are you never heard about Juneteenth day while growing up. And like me you may not have even heard of the day before in much older age ranges unless you happened to be an expert in or well read in African American history, culture, and politics as an African American or Non-African American.And such African American cultural expertise and literacy is a rarity in a nation which is routinely ignorant of and has denied its horrible enslaved African American history systemically ; which means most of we Americans irrespective of our ancestries have been victimized by systemic induced ignorance and denial by federal and state governments refusing for generations to tell us a truth which has kept us all degraded and dehumanized by a horrible racialized injustice with we as a nation has yet to repent of and authentically do systemic penitence about.
This systemic induced ignorance and denial about African American enslavement has gravely tainted our character as a nation since colonial times and consistently makes our claims to be a democracy the brunt of cruel jokes globally through the generations.It has over time constantly played effectively into the hands of our global allies and foes who then justify their own racialized and cultural prejudices and inequalities.
When not denied, the enslavement of African Americans even today has been publicly portrayed by right wing commentators as being not really all that bad or as a gift to Africans to save us through capture and enslavement from the clutches of what they viewed and still do as the dark continent replete with what their hero formerly in the White House called sh**hole countries.
The seemingly surprising easy Congressional passing of The 2021 Juneteenth National Independence Day Act and its signing by President Biden was not so shocking given the present political climate in a guilt ridden polarized country with a usual gridlock Congress and a President skilled at plucking off the branch low hanging apples and oranges rather than climbing the full height of the tallest trees to get the even more ripe fruit. The passing and signing of the bill came off the backs of scores if not hundreds and thousands mostly African Americans advocating for decades indeed generations for the day to be memorialized as the enslaved African American day of independence from slavery already being celebrated around the country and recognized by 47 states though mostly as unpaid holidays. The problem is on the national level fresh from four years of mainstreaming of white nationalism in electoral and judiciary appointment politics and a hysterical convoluted media about racial issues and in the aftermath of the George Floyd protest we remain very much a rudderless nation without effective restorative justice leadership to lead us to a more just America including all of us. How can we become more just in more than symbolic ways if we allow ourselves to be subjected to the passing of civil rights acts like this one which look good and mean good while we remain a nation in which systemic ignorance and denial of the enslavement of African Americans and their continued enslavement after abolition though under different names and structures such as Jim Crow, chain gangs, cotton tenancy, community massacres, mass incarceration, human trafficking, defunding public education, perpetual urban and rural poverty, street violent prone illegal drugs dumping grounds, loan shark predator communities, ill- health communities,and police brutalized communities with low standards of housing and quality of life services? The tossing of symbolic crumbs of racial justice progress by American governments, businesses, schools, media, faith communities, and nonprofit organizations with no sustainable advances in authentic justice has since the ending of the American Civil War in 1865 been a soroid American public tradition which keeps us twirling in a sewer of societal morass.Consequently , we continue to remain a nation in which we all grow up becoming less than what we all can be collectively and individually because we have buried this horrible crime of humanity which haunts and cripples all of us emotionally, economically, socially,and politically
in ways we systemically are induced to deny and ignore.We therefore don’t have the cognitive and socioemotional tools and skills to bring ourselves to admit and authentically reckon with the horrible blight of African American enslavement through genuine though painful restorative justice practices. Restorative justice practices that is to regain our humanity through embracing truly the humanity of others we have been taught from the crib to old age are less than human or more than human due to their ancestry dangerously distorted through the myth making of ” race.”
It is tempting to say as I started to write that well at least The 2021 Juneteenth National Independence Day Act is a start.But the problem with that almost Freudian slip of a neo- liberal tongue is that we are always saying that about symbols of racial justice in America which usually just stay there ” as a start” which go nowhere except on the resumes of politicians and civil rights leaders while no next steps occur to assure genuine sustaining justice occurs. And when I say justice I mean for everyone since when one population is unfree we are all unfree..when one population becomes freed we all become free.
What this means in regards to The 2021 Juneteenth National Independence Day Act is that the Biden-Harris administration as the next step needs to, through Executive Order, mobilize their cabinet secretaries to do the necessary expedited policy designs,declarations, and monitorings to require the agencies and institutions under their jurisdictions with positive incentives to effective policy implementers such as bonuses and promotions to spread public awareness about the atrocious history of the enslavement of African Americans , their legal abolition and their continued enslavement in these post- emancipation eras.It should be stressed that the enslavement of African Americans , legal emancipation, and the continued impacts of enslavement in its different names and structures is not just an African American experience.African American enslavement was and remains a tragic societal experience which negatively impacts every American no matter our ancestral origin when it comes to our mental health, interpersonal relationships, our electoral and appointment politics, and the health of our families,communities, and economies.
So as we move forward with The 2021 Juneteenth National Independence Day Act let us not just assume it is for Black folks only though we all get the day off with pay irrespective of our ancestries and our care or awareness about the significance of the day.
Let us, we the people, insist to the Biden-Harris administration as a means of accountability , that we go beyond mere resume building political posturing since they took the keys and opened a too long closed door we all need to step in as a nation and do the necessary to wake us all from the slumber of induced ignorance of this filthy little secret -the enslavement of African Americans as a crime against humanity and its post- legal emancipation continuation which impacts all of us in need of public exposure and resolution authentically.No more symbolic resume building crumbs and celebrations which lead us down paths to nowhere except filled bellies and perchance hangovers once a holiday is over only to discover when sober again we are all still dehumanized by our systemic induced ignorance and denial of a grave centuries long racialized injustice now in need of total exposure and genuine reckoning for now we can and thus we must.