It’s difficult to write an original critique or something completely new about Juneteenth. In every possible angle and perspective, radical Black people have been explaining how the signing of this national holiday continues the state’s efforts to liberalize everything about Black existence in the US. With that perspective, Josh Briond’s latest piece in Hampton Think pretty much sums up my thoughts about the holiday.
But that isn’t really what I want to write about, or think much more about. I am thinking more precisely about what these constant acts of cooptation mean to suppress and inhibit any Black radical movement. I’m thinking about how this day, or Africa Day (which used to be centered around Pan-African Liberation), or Black History Month, or even Pride. My reflections on this day in 2021, when it’s formally been recognized as a national holiday, are ones of ambivalence. I still believe that this is a moment to celebrate for anyone of African descent to celebrate, but we should center and recognize the US context whereby Africans liberated themselves from chattel slavery (Black Texans for this date more specifically).
I’m thinking a lot about what it meant for me to grow up with African immigrant parents on this day. This note that I saw today particularly brought that home.
Whether it is recognizing the neocolonial relationships Ethiopia and Eritrea have with the west today (or even internally past and present with both), my recent histories in my family have not been rooted in the horrifying system that was US chattel slavery. It really irked me frankly to see non-Black Americans (really the ones who are well-off whether with international or domestic roots) taking the space to demand reparations and CashApp funds on a day where we should center the US revolutionary history of Black folks. It can absolutely go to individuals in particular on this day, or even just community organizers and mutual aid groups. I have no need certainly because of my class, nor because of my background, to ask for money today (or ever). Especially given formal attitudes with Ethiopians…