It has been five years since Your Humble Blogger remembered to mark Juneteenth. This is a serious oversight—Juneteenth should be a national observance, a celebration and remembrance, not only because by all rights there ought to be a national observance of the end of slavery and the eventual conclusion that our government should do the right thing, but because without somebody reminding me (an average white guy in southern New England) I am liable to forget. One of the privileges of privilege is the luxury to forget, right? And one of the responsibilities of privilege is the refusal to forget. Let’s work on that, shall we?
Of course, in the five years since I last thought to write about Juneteenth, things have changed a bit. There’s a black President, for one thing. Who, as far as I can tell, has not yet released a Juneteenth statement this year.
I am tempted to make a connection, you know, between a delayed Presidential proclamation and the whole story of Juneteenth, the delay of a year and a half between the law and the fact. Can anyone now imagine what it was like to learn that you are free, legally free, and that you have been for a year and a half without anyone telling you? Without recourse to the courts, to the authorities, even to the library to see if the rumors were true? And then, well, then. Freedom, and injustice, and justice, and all manner of things. But fundamentally, wholly different after that day. Not the day the thing was signed two years earlier. Not the day it became law. The day the federal troops got there to enforce it.
That’s my thought for this Juneteenth, the distance between the thought and the deed. How important it is to celebrate the beginnings of action, affirmative action, to right the wrongs. Oh, I know it wasn’t the beginning of action, but the point is that it wasn’t the end of action, either. We have to work at this stuff, right?
And not forget it.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
I though, on Juneteenth, “Oh, it is Juneteenth,” although I cannot say that I did anything more. I wish I had, and that we, as a country, did.