Learning about the Juneteenth Holiday
The Juneteenth holiday, celebrated every 19th of June, is a commemoration of the liberation of enslaved African-Americans in the United States. It was on the 19th of June 1865 when Union Army General Gordon Granger announced General Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas officially emancipating slaves in the entire state. This is after President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation two years earlier stating that all slaves in the US are freed. In fact, the proclamation even stated that former masters and slaves would have absolute equality in personal rights and rights of property. The relation between former masters and slaves shall be transformed into employer and hired labor. Former slaves are now allowed to work for wages.
This was a major breakthrough for the enslaved African-Americans in the US. In fact, the holiday is nicknamed by many as the “second independence day” of the country. After enduring centuries of enslavement, people of color may finally enjoy activities they were previously prohibited to do. This includes purchasing of property, tilling their own farms, enjoying sports and recreation, and more.
The word Juneteenth is a blend of the words ‘June’ and ‘Nineteenth’. The celebration is actually not a recognized holiday in the whole of the United States but it is revered as a State Holiday in multiple places in the country. The only states in the country that does not officially celebrate Juneteenth annually are Hawaii, South Dakota, and North Dakota.
The Significance of Juneteenth to Current Social Climate in the US
How slow is America’s progress on racial disparity? The #BlackLivesMatter protests started in 2013. Racial brutality is still prevalent. Statistics still show that there is a wide disparity in financial stability, education, safety, and health among races. White supremacy, quietly waiting in the sidelines, still overrules people’s judgment and thinking. Although there are laws made to protect people of color, it would seem that these policies are not enough. Americans are finding it difficult to unlearn racial bias which had been subtly inculcated by the environment and existing culture.
Now is the perfect time for Americans to realize how the ancient views on racial discrimination are still widespread in this day and age of globalization and modernization. Everyone should be reminded of how they wrongly, though indirectly, benefit from this racial discrimination. It is the best time to realize that there should be equality for all, and lobbying for equality is worth it.
The Juneteenth celebrations should be a platform to educate people about the history and culture of African-Americans. It should be a time when Americans are reminded of the importance of reviewing and improving existing policies to be inclusive of the rights of people of color. Juneteenth should be a reminder for change, especially now that the #BlackLivesMatter protests are so prevalent. The holiday is the perfect opportunity to educate the youth of the past and how it controls the present.
American Brands and Juneteenth
It is great to know that African-American holidays receive importance now than it did decades ago. Just a year ago, almost the entire country recognized Juneteenth celebrations as a state holiday. However, only the state of Texas considers it as a paid holiday. Fortunately, to show support for the #BlackLivesMatter protests, multiple American brands announced that they will be celebrating Juneteenth as a paid holiday for their employees this year. These brands include BestBuy, Nike, and Target. Hopefully, many more brands and companies will follow suit. Also, there are hopes that these companies will recognize Juneteenth celebrations as a paid holiday annually.
These companies have stated that the Juneteenth Celebrations is not only a commemoration of the emancipation of slaves in the 1800s. It is also a symbol of freedom and liberation. There are also statements that indicate that it represents the “freedom for which we must continue to fight”.
A Hundred Years from Emancipation
Enslaved African-Americans were emancipated in 1865. But the plight of people of color did not end in the late 1800s. In fact, former slaves still suffered from severe discrimination. They were prohibited from gathering in public facilities. There were signages that dictate where African-Americans are allowed to do almost anything. Lanes for walking and resting are segregated. There are are ‘Colored Areas’ in public places like parks, restaurants, and buses. Schools and workplaces specifically for people of color are established.
The Segregation Laws of the United States was only abolished in 1964. Black Americans were only allowed to vote a year later in 1965. The United States took another hundred years to recognize that there is widespread discrimination in education, marriage, and employment since the proclamation of emancipation in 1865. This applies not only for race but for gender as well. Now, 55 years later, it would seem that there is little change in the mindset of the Americans regarding race and White supremacy.