Kenneth L. Hardin: I’m not celebrating Juneteenth again this year either
Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 19, 2022
Last year I wrote in this newspaper how I wouldn’t be celebrating the Juneteenth “holiday.” Nothing has happened in the intervening 364 days that has made me rethink that decision. So, again today, I’ll be reflecting and mourning rather than eating grilled food and tossing back cold ones in memory of the courage and sacrifice of my ancestors. If you’re celebrating, I would urge you to drink less and read more. I never thought I would say this but I read way too much. I’m addicted to information. I won’t pretend to offer up the addict’s clichéd belief that I can stop anytime because it would be a big lie.
Speaking of a big lie, no not that one, I’m talking about the fairytale of the overly hyped and nauseatingly commercialized Juneteenth “holiday” that has grown into more of a stylized Disney-like production rather than a meaningful moment in the history of Black people and the progressive development of this country.
I don’t celebrate the day because I see nothing to wish someone to be “happy” about. Now that mainstream America has diluted its significance with Juneteenth flavored ice cream, equity Vaseline and ridiculous parties in parks, I can’t imagine having to stomach swaying back and forth to music, eating tasty treats that have nothing to do with the era or listening to clueless and out of touch politicians rattle on about how much they care about Black people while evidence shows the little they’re actually doing for those same people. It pains me to think I would be enjoying all this knowing what the day really means.
For years, local small events were held down at Kelsey Scott Park with little to no support from the city. Now we have a public soirée spectacle, which is so far removed from the meaning and original intention, we need a forensics team to identify its purpose and connect it back.
Most Black people I know don’t attend these type of public events, but there’s always a lot of African Americans who do. Black people who haven’t compromised their sense of self always look to maintain their dignity, integrity and stay true to their history and heritage. But those who are African without memory and American without privilege allow themselves to be bought out by the highest bidder. Do we dare deviate from all things green on St. Patrick’s Day? Nope. In the fall during Hispanic Heritage Month, do we ask our Hermanos to exploit their traditions for the comfort and joy of others? No nosotros no. I guarantee you would never see a Happy Trail of Tears Day or a Happy Holocaust Remembrance celebration with music, food and vendors.
As the fairytale goes, which is based on actual events but certainly embellished for dramatic purposes, it’s called Juneteenth, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, Black Independence Day or Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo day for a specific reason. As His-Story notes, President Abraham Lincoln, who wasn’t overly concerned with freeing his darker hued constituents, signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. On June 19, 1865, Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger led 2,000 soldiers to Galveston, Texas, to deliver the message that the Civil War was over, and they would be enforcing the end of slavery. Part of this wondrous magical freeing document read in part, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.” Yeah, okurrr.
This is where I have questions about the veracity of this tale. Are we supposed to believe that with 250,000 enslaved Black people, not one knew for two years that forced bondage and servitude had ended? That’s insulting to their intelligence. Maybe if they weren’t being held under the fear of murder or brutal beatings, they might’ve quit two years earlier. If their brutal owners knew, then the slaves knew, too. Just because a statement was read, are we to believe this story concluded with a happy rom com ending? No, enslaved Blacks had to remain on plantations working crops. Slave owners didn’t just allow them to skip off the job into the sunset and start throwing Juneteenth celebrations. What about the millions of newly emancipated enslaved who died from disease and starvation? What are we really celebrating today? A day that never truly existed.
Because some people view the teaching of critical race theory as hate, we’re subjected to lies and feel-good fairytales that do more harm than good. Don’t celebrate the parts of history that make you feel good, celebrate the truth or nothing at all.
Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org