Column: Juneteenth’s legal recognition is performative activism

Destiny Blanchard, Opinions Writer

This past Saturday we, African Americans, celebrated Juneteenth. This holiday celebrates the freedom of our ancestors and when the last of our enslaved people found out about their freedom on June 19, 1865, 2 and a half years after the emancipation proclamation was declared.

This holiday is one that not all African Americans celebrate and not all were previously aware of. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of non-Black Americans had no awareness of the holiday and its meaning prior to this or last summer. This may be because of the historic amount of Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. Many non-Black people attempted to make an effort to combat anti-Black racism by learning about our people, struggles, and culture.

While on the surface this seems like a well overdue effort by non-Black people, particularly white people, much of the work done has been performative and has not done much to help the black community. Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a key example of this.

Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday feels more like a slap in the face than an outstretched hand of equality. Corporations will now be able to capitalize from a holiday celebrating Black liberation so they can turn a weekend profit. I’ve already seen companies who have majority white executives release their Juneteenth merchandise and weekend sales.

Juneteenth will become another opportunity for non-Black people to make money, similar to other major holidays such as Memorial Day, Cinco de Mayo, and the Fourth of July.

At the same time that Juneteenth was made a federal holiday, politicians are debating whether or not critical race theory can be taught in schools. Kids in school will get the day off for Juneteenth in the future but they won’t be taught why.

In reality, learning the history of Juneteenth and its meaning would be a great learning opportunity for everyone.

Making Juneteenth a federal holiday wasn’t for the benefit of African American people. This was a symbolic gesture that white Americans and politicians can point at when we comment on the racism that we still see today.

At every opportunity to do something that can result in tangible returns for black Americans, the people in charge choose to do something that will only make themselves look good.

Destiny Blanchard is a junior management major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].