This past weekend, there were numerous celebrations of this second federally-sanctioned Juneteenth holiday. Next month, the same will occur for Independence Day, the Fourth of July. Like clockwork it happens in Jackson, throughout Mississippi, and across America. The celebrations are joyous and high-spirited. As they multiply, one could be reminded of the days of the Roman Empire when the emperors, along with the patricians, declared holidays in order to take the peasants minds off their miserable conditions.
When one looks at the origins of Juneteenth and the Fourth of July, he/she can see the lack of honesty on the part of many of the country’s leaders. In the case of Juneteenth, Texas planters and the local political leaders deliberately didn’t acknowledge the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the defeat of the south in the Civil War, continuing to work the African people as slaves. In the case of the Fourth of July, although the Declaration of Independence stated that all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, Africans continued to be held as slaves and declared not to have any rights that a white man was bound to respect by the Dred Scott decision.
Regarding these two days then, there is much that needs to be clearly reconsidered and changed. Parades, parties, and picnics are what occupy the time of many people, but they are not enough. The local happenings are what’s talked about, but that is not enough when it comes to matters as important as what should have followed in the wake of the Declaration of Independence and the emancipation following the ending of the Civil War.
There needed to have been then and continues to be a need to fully inform people of the predicament of the oppressed people, those who were enslaved, those who continue to be handicapped as a result of who were their ancestors. First-rate, publicly-funded education is needed to develop the people and their communities. Public adult programs are needed to inform everybody of how America has fallen short and needs to fulfill its pledge to develop a more perfect union that promotes and protects everybody’s human rights.
Juneteenth and the Fourth of July ought to also become special times to underscore contemporary existing forms of oppression that characterize or plague this country. They should also be used to help identify and beat back returning or resurging forms of Jim Crow and white nationalism.
If we are to be serious, between Juneteenth and the Fourth of July, not just those dates, but the concepts of the equality of people, the perfection of the Union and the advancement of human rights must become the main agenda of African American people, who were the original objects and not the subjects of freedom. For them, they should carry the torch that proclaims the truth rather than allowing lies or silence to prevail; insists on righteous and meaningful deeds being performed rather than merely high-sound-sounding words being spoken or business as usual being carried out; and this agenda occupying center stage rather than being left with no particular timetable.
Between Juneteenth and the Fourth of July this year and on into forever, we have work to do.