On the surface, Juneteenth as a national holiday appears a national step towards acknowledging enslavement. The reality is, Juneteenth as a national holiday, functions to restore faith in what has failed us for centuries: the government. Juneteenth as a national holiday, in addition to aiding Joe Biden’s attempt to paint himself into the Abe Lincoln mythos, suggests that the government will give the black collective what it deserves, only if we wait. The government legally abolished slavery when the government realized that they did not need a formal institution to maintain systemic control over the black psyche. The damage was done, irreparably so; thus, [physical] “freedom” came when the government felt confident that the damage caused was significant enough to make actual freedom a figment of an imagination stymied by systemic control. As long as the black collective aligns freedom with the consent of their adversaries, we remain bound cognitively to an institution that never truly dissolved.
Plantations endured a second life in million-dollar corporations built on the very backs of those who built this country, and what the past called “slaves” the present calls celebrities, politicians, entertainers, “cultural representatives,” or the “new blacks” or “blavity” blacks.
Moreover, a core issue with this holiday is its distorted perception of freedom. Juneteenth isn’t a celebration of black liberation, it is a celebration of white epistemology as shaping and determining black truth. Freedom is not something that is announced, given, or even celebrated. Freedom is something one must take and make for themselves, something that one must live.
Additionally, Juneteenth performs an integral and hazardous role in how American history and America as a country function globally.
The obscured caption accompanying this holiday is:
“America had slaves, but America freed slaves.”
This caption reads a lot like:
“Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, but America convicted him.”
The latter seems to mitigate the former overlooking the former as articulating the intractable in both statements.
A conviction does not and cannot move the unmovable. It cannot bring back George Floyd.
Abolition did not ameliorate the indelible scars of slavery, because slavery is that which cannot be abolished but overcome—an action consummated by the late Nat Turner, not by Juneteenth.
Nat Turner, though an enslaved man, epitomized freedom. His physical insurrection followed his cognitive awakening. But most importantly, he took what he knew his adversaries would never willingly give–what he knew he had to give himself. He’ll never get a holiday because his legacy incites the masses to do more than celebrate. His legacy reminds the black collective that justice comes in the morning only if we plan in the evening. His legacy inspires the black collective to take what the government needs us to believe that only they can give.
With this being said, it is imperative to note a distinction between being enslaved and being a slave. While I will not go as far as to state that being a “slave” constitutes the irretrievable, I will say that it constitutes a cognitive state buried in layers of anti-black ideology to which it is difficult to resurrect. The enslaved did not need an announcement because freedom was something they detached from their physical reality. Those made slaves by the intricate structure of institutional bondage define freedom per their oppressors. Thus, slavery becomes the inheritance they leave for the generations that follow.
Nevertheless, I suppose that the biggest gripe with this “holiday” is that it illustrates that many do not truly desire freedom. It illustrates that freedom, for many, need only be a historical footnote or national afterthought, because freedom is faith in anything but ourselves, though designed to suggest the contrary.
It illustrates that to many, freedom need not be actualized, but limited to transient moments of celebration deemed legally worthy by the government. It illustrates that many just want a reason to celebrate because the system has broken us down to believe that celebration is the only relief that we have from its wrath, that celebration, in legally designated spurts, is how we actualize freedom. In this white settler space, celebrations are, of course, yet another means for the system to disrupt a disrupted people.
The stakeholders in this white settler space did not give the black collective Juneteenth in 2021 legislature or in the news received on June 19, 1985. What they appear to “give” is only to themselves, and to believe anything of the contrary elucidates that announcements in 1865 and 2021 function to ensure that the black collective remains systemically enslaved despite the facade of freedom.
I say these words not from a place of judgment but as a person whose dreams continue to be made of freedom. And while I do not wish to present freedom as a monolith, I do know that freedom does not bloom in June; it blooms within only if watered with that which is not white supremacy.