One of the most pertinent distinctions that the African descended must make is the distinction between “enslaved” and “slave.” Enslaved speaks to a systemic position, and slavery references a mind weighed down by cognitive chains. Juneteenth as a commercialized holiday delineates that this distinction remains more prevalent than ever.
As Dr. Carr reminded us on the Karen Hunter show earlier today, Juneteenth is one of many emancipatory holidays that occur throughout the black diaspora. Juneteenth, like the independence holidays seen in places like the Caribbean, encompasses blacks acknowledging the tangible chain severed between themselves, as a constituency, and overt white rule. Though places like Texas and Oakland consistently dedicate themselves to Juneteenth festivities, the holiday has never been acknowledged by America until now.
Juneteenth as a commercial holiday unveils the slavery that never ended. By slavery, I specifically reference a mental slavery where the oppressed mistake visibility for advancement, a cognitive enslavement that conceptualizes the crack of the master’s whip as a lullaby. Juneteenth as a commercial holiday casts what was once an emancipatory celebration as fair game on the American market. The plethora of Juneteenth sales, and the superficial postings on various websites and platforms acknowledging the holiday, aim to project Juneteenth as personifying that black lives matter.
As a commercialized holiday Juneteenth embodies the integratory promise of a country who satiates its narcissism in seeking to make what is ours, everyone’s.
The larger issue here is that the attained popularity afforded to Juneteenth this year epitomizes the venomous effect of the original holiday. As many know, Juneteenth does not commemorate the liberation of the enslaved; instead, the holiday commemorates when the enslaved learned that they were free. However, only a slave can be set free, the enslaved understand that slavery is something that one must give themselves.
The government nationalizes Juneteenth as a holiday, in the spirit of their hegemonic ancestors. These hegemonic ancestors, who only ended the domestic institution when they realized they no longer needed a formal system to actualize their intentions, sold the American ideal to an oppressed people with an announcement of slavery’s abolition. By an American ideal, I speak to the emancipatory proclamation, a document that posits concluding what the white world has only transformed. The proclamation issues a hollow (and faux) promise that hard work pays off to those who for centuries prayed for a day where there were no longer slaves. Similarly, Juneteenth deemed a recognized holiday following weeks of protest, seems to yield progress in Juneteenth’s overnight evolution from obscurity to national recognition.
What we see here is this nation’s effort to maintain a hegemonic hold on black liberation. For this reason, Juneteenth as a commercial holiday functions more as a praxis of white nationalism than black appreciation.
Nevertheless, as long as anti-black “authorial” figures convince us that if we ask, they’ll supply, we, as a collective, will continue to ask for what they can never give—and wouldn’t even if they could.
Thus, on Juneteenth, we must remember that we not only built this country but that this country was built on our abjection. Thus, for this nation to remain standing, it remains essential that his hegemonic space keep the black collective relegated to their knees.
Furthermore, Juneteenth provides the opportunity to reflect on how we, as individuals within a powerful collective, plan to exercise our freedom autonomous from what the government allows or acknowledges. It is exercising these freedoms that we as a collective exist autonomously from the slave status this country continues to demand of us and enjoy a life severed from the enslavement of systemic hypnosis.