After President Joe Biden signed a bill establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, there was a wave of happiness and celebrations amongst the citizens of the United States. While this might seem as a ray of hope for the Afro-American population of America, what we are completely failing to understand is, “You cannot move an entire iceberg by just chipping off its tip.” This statement comes off as strong and opinionated, but maybe it is the intense emotion that catalyses the remark.
I believe if there is something that can actually be done for atrocities against the black people, it must be independent of any political agenda. Even a movement as radical as Black Lives Matter could not prevent George Flyod from losing his life to egotistical white officers for no fault of his own. We can only wait to see how this declaration of a federal holiday is going to be any better for those who have lost their family members to toxic white supremacy. Ever since Juneteenth was established in the 1800’s, to me it seemed more of a surface arrangement for a selected population, than a collective motive for the welfare of an entire race.
The nomenclature of Juneteenth is derived by combining “June” and “nineteenth,” the same day that the federal troops arrived in Galveston, delivering a message of freedom for the slaves. June 19, 1865. After long and exhausting decades of bondage, the Emancipation Proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln suggested a ray of hope for the African American slaves in Texas.
When President Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, it did not instantly release any slaves. This proclamation was only effective on places under Confederate control and not on slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under control of the Union. After the declaration, execution of the Proclamation was the responsibility of the civil troops. It took almost two years for the troops to arrive in Galveston. Although many sources state that Juneteenth in the United States celebrates the emancipation of African-American slaves, slavery did not end on Juneteenth.
Even after the troops arrived, there were as many slaves as 250,000 and they were not all freed instantly. Many slave owners refused to submit to the orders and kept their slaves in confinement until they were rigorously forced to give up. The emancipation did not take place easily and in a day, it was observed happening in fragments. Newly gained freedom was being celebrated by the black slaves. In December 1865, slavery in America was terminated with a legal sanction.
To honour their newly attained liberation, the former slaves, now freemen, of Texas organized a celebration which was observed every year on June 19th. Thus, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday. The celebrations were initially Church-centric community gatherings, which over the years have now become more commercialized. Juneteenth is usually celebrated on the third Saturday in June.
It is not as easy to get rid of racism as it seems on the surface. The larger chunk of the iceberg is still waiting to be addressed. While the roots of racism are so deeply soiled in a country like America, we can only hope that small steps bereft of selfish motives, towards eradication can save the people from white domination. Because every theory looks pretty simple on paper but when it comes to execution, most ideas fail to take shape.
We do not want another innocent life being tortured to death for no reason. Sometimes I wonder how many anti-racism protests, political measures, radical movements, revolutionary leaders are going to take, to actually attempt to find a solution to this problem. Let us all wish we can find a ray of hope for humanity real soon or we cannot save ourselves from being doomed.
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