An article by Dr. Régine Jean-Charles in Ms. Magazine
So read the sign that my middle-school aged child held two years ago during a town rally for anti-racist education that took place on Juneteenth that year. The poster was my attempt at a cleverly rendered jab condemning the lack of racial justice-oriented curriculum in our local schools. In many communities, 2020 marked the very first time that white people began to care about Juneteenth in a mainstream way.
To say now that it was a fraught year is, of course, an understatement.
These Juneteenth celebrations took place three months into the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and a few weeks after the widely circulated video-recorded murder of George Floyd. They punctuated the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Following Floyd’s murder, a wave of racial justice-oriented statements and initiatives flooded the public and private sectors throughout the United States. For corporations, colleges and universities, this resulted in a so-called “racial reckoning” that, for the most part, merely translated into issuing statement after statement. For media outlets, this meant publishing reading lists and blog posts rife with anti-racist wisdom and coronating experts on racism based on how many books they sold. For governing bodies, Juneteenth presented an opportunity to do something by finally recognizing what, for many African Americans, had long been a holiday marking the significance of freedom. A year later in 2021, a bill passed to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.