Juneteenth: Celebrating in Crisis

By Denzel McCampbell

Today marks 152 years since the ending of chattel slavery* in the United States, a celebration also known as Juneteenth. It was not until two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation put forth by President Abraham Lincoln that enough Union soldiers reached Texas to enforce the order and bring an end to chattel slavery in the country.

It’s important to note that slavery is technically still legal in the United States. The 13th Amendment allows slavery and involuntary servitude as a punishment of a crime which lends itself to the huge industry of prison labor, an industry that many governmental agencies and corporations participate in. A term to also keep in mind is the school-to-prison pipeline, the system of punitive policies in our education system that leads to children being incarcerated rather than education. A feeder system for an industry of massive profits that needs a constant stream of workers.

June 19th is celebrated in Black communities across the country with BBQs, educational events, and gatherings to build community, celebrate a historic event, and reflect on where the Black people stand today. It’s hard to argue against the notion that today’s celebration and the many that have happened since 1865 are occurring during a time of crisis.

It’s common knowledge that the plight of Black people did not end with the Emancipation Proclamation, Juneteenth, nor the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Instead, today we are fighting to even say the words “Black Lives Matter”.

I could use this blog post to run down statistics on the lack of investment in schools systems that exist in Black communities (while whiter districts see more money in the classrooms and higher achievement), the lack of resources to stabilize and strengthen Black neighborhoods, the notion that Black people cannot knock on someone’s door for help (Johnathan Ferrell, Renisha McBride and countless others) or call the police for help (Charleena Lyles and many more) without ending up dead, or the ability to simply attend school without being killed by a white supremacist (Richard Collins III). But, I wanted to present a short reflection piece.

It is important to note these instances and the many that happen day in and day out, simply because it is disputed and called into question every day, even by elected officials, (remember this from Michigan State Senator Patrick Colbeck?). It’s time to acknowledge what is happening in this country and to earnestly listen to the Black community on how racism and anti-blackness is affecting us and killing us. Only then will we be able to combat the systemic racism that exists in this nation and only then will we be able to fight the white supremacy that continues to rear its ugly and deadly head in the United States.