Juneteenth in 2023

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I’m observing Juneteenth today the way I assume a bunch of white people in America are observing it—I have the day off work, and I’m watching some TV and doing some shopping, and doing a few errands. I mean, most white people in America aren’t watching the Ashes, I suspect, but still: TV, errands, a day off.

I’ve said, many times, that the story of Juneteenth is one of the most American stories that could be imagined. The layers of meaning! The horrors of slavery, the glory of abolition, the utter failure to enforce the rights of the formerly enslaved, the cynicism of Major General Granger’s proclamation (and yet the existence of it at all), the XXV Corps in East Texas and their erasure from the history, the defiant joy of Juneteenth celebrations in Galveston and their spread across Texas and eventually the country… really the only thing left to make the Juneteenth story as American as it could possibly be would be the institution of a Federal Holiday, with a bunch of white people taking the day off work and doing a little shopping. Or perhaps maybe the remaining thing would be crappy plastic Juneteenth-themed picnic stuff at the local Walmart.

A couple of years ago, I asked “What, to American White People, Is Juneteenth?” It would make me sad if the answer is: a day off, the same as President’s Day and Labor Day.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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