Juneteenth Becomes a Federal Holiday. What Does It Mean?
Juneteenth is now recognized as a holiday in nearly every state in the nation. The bill passed the U.S. Congress last month in the midst of an intensifying political culture war that’s been driving backlash to teaching the history of race and power in this country.
It’s also fueled voter suppression efforts in more than 20 state legislatures (as of this writing). Many have pointed out that the same Congress that passed the Juneteenth bill has been deadlocked over HR 1, the comprehensive voting rights, elections and ethics legislation that would protect many minority and Democratic-leaning voters against Republican suppression efforts.
So is the Juneteenth holiday just a distraction or is it a step toward understanding the full scope of systemic racism in this country? Neighbors sound off!
NOTE: Some speakers provide their names & neighborhoods, some don’t. Check out their voices in P.O.C.’s original recorded interviews, transcribed here:
- It makes me feel happy that they feel they have to honor our ancestors, but it doesn’t change what we’re going through today. It’s like giving a nod to us for going through it, but it doesn’t acknowledge the consequences of slavery and systematic racism that still impact us. So yes, it does make me angry. It makes me happy for the acknowledgement of our past, but it doesn’t make me feel like they’re considering the present consequences or how we got here. – Aaron, Manayunk
- I’m white, so I can’t necessarily speak to Juneteenth and what it means as well as somebody of color could. But I think it’s a bit ironic that it’s Emancipation Day, but you can’t really call this a free society. People are not given equal opportunity and equal treatment. So they pass this law and say it’s to honor Juneteenth. But what does it change? I feel the same way about Pride Month, for example. Target and a bunch of other retailers are selling the pride gear but it’s exploitative, it’s fake, and performative as well. – Beth, Mt. Airy
- It doesn’t really make me mad because I personally don’t believe in anything the US government says that they want to give us in the first place. We were enslaved for over 500 years and we’re still not in that great a position right now. They just gave white people a day off because they could. – Indego, West Philly
- I’m really mad. I was by the river the other night and I saw that the Comcast sign said “Happy Juneteenth.” It really frustrates me because they’re acting like they don’t know what the solution is when in reality, they have the power to defund or at least to stop funding the police department and the oppressors of the state. They’re acting like we’ve made all this progress but in reality, progress hasn’t even really started. It’s all just whitewashed. – Talia, North Philadelphia
How ‘Bout You?
Reading these comments, are you mad or nah? Big mad, little mad? When did you first learn about Juneteenth, and what does the holiday mean to you now? Chime in below! Or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know how you feel. Read the last Mad or Nah here.
Mad or Nah is an original woman-on-the-street interview series from REVIVE Radio that asks Philadelphians about issues impacting their everyday life.
Tamara Russell aka Proof of Consciousness aka P.O.C. hosts and produces a variety of award-winning shows featured on Uptown Radio 98.5FM and Philly’s WHYY/NPR/PBS outlets. Read more in our feature on this multi-talented motivator, Wouldn’t It Be NICE? (June 2021).