Some people can have a cynical view of holidays.
“Valentines Day was created by the greeting card companies.” “Christmas has become capitalistic.” “People aren’t giving back during service holidays like MLK or Veterans Day.” All valid points made by well-meaning folks who I believe look for experiences and, by extension, people to be authentic. We also use holidays to acknowledge loved ones, care for ourselves, and also to stop and reflect on the topic at hand. And yes, to eat at BBQs and sleep in on a day off. Holidays and celebrations serve as an opportunity for society to reflect on a meaningful time.
My first memory of Juneteenth (a holiday commemorating the announcement that slavery was to be abolished in the State of Texas) was one of confusion. I was in elementary school, maybe the 4th or 5th grade and my father wanted me to write a paper on the topic. For as long as I can remember, this day didn’t remind me that we are free. It reminds me that we are a part of a horrific history where in part due to capitalism and power, our ancestors were treated as nothing short of inhumane. I have never wanted to celebrate it. This blog won’t end with that being any different. While I understand the principle meaning behind holidays and acknowledging where we come from is important, I find it difficult to celebrate Juneteenth for 3 reasons:
- It makes me sad. It isn’t that deep. I just find it causes me to give white people the side eye. It is not intellectual or particularly interesting. It just makes me angry and sad.
- It is a reminder that we still live in a time where you have to convince people that our history is reflective of our past and to a certain extent, that past lives in our systems today. These systems are not always acknowledged by those in power essentially meaning the same mentality and systems have resurrected themselves in other forms including within and in the form of the penal system, as well as in education.
- It marks a day when slaves were “allowed” to be free by the oppressor. It weighs on me in such a way I can’t quite articulate. Our ancestors for hundreds of years fought to remove the literal, economical and spiritual noose from around our proverbial necks and yet the oppressor “chose” to abolish slavery. The lack of autonomy for an entire people leaves nothing to celebrate for me.
Every year, I take a moment to reflect on how far we have come as a nation and I will be the first to acknowledge what a long and progressive road that is for America. I also think about how this history has left a brand on us that cannot be mistaken or removed. I recognize I am afforded a life that says progress is real and my ancestors died so that I can experience the life I live today including sit in this cushy office typing on my 19 inch monitor, run to my local Lucky’s Grocery Store to pick up a ½ pound of scallops and watch Netflix in my cushy apartment. I also feel a disdain that we face our history and our future with a question as to if we will ever move to a place where people are seen as people and the oppressor is the one really acknowledging what has been done by dismantling said systems and how the lack thereof affects us today. I understand the need for this day and something about it never sits well with my soul.