Column: Juneteenth is not a joke

Published 1:28 pm Monday, June 17, 2024

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Recently, an article written by one of my coworkers about Montevallo presenting its second annual Juneteenth Celebration ignited a Facebook comment war about Juneteenth. In this discussion, some voiced their opinion that Juneteenth is a “joke holiday” that segregates the celebration of American independence in an effort to make everything about race.

Well, this is America. Healthy debate is a cornerstone of our democracy. If we can’t voice our beliefs and engage in civil discourse, then we have nothing. You have your opinion and I have mine. And it’s my opinion that such criticism of Juneteenth is illogical.

Juneteenth is a federally recognized holiday which celebrates the day that enslaved black people in the state of Texas were emancipated.

See, although the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863, enslaved people in many Confederate states would not be free until much later. Juneteenth recognizes June 19, 1865 when Union troops freed hundreds of thousands of people in the state of Texas.

The idea of Juneteenth is not new. People have celebrated Juneteenth for over a century, but it didn’t gain federal recognition until 2021.

Juneteenth recognizes the truth that true freedom didn’t exist in the United States for many people for a long time. Different groups gained independence and suffrage at different times. And that’s not liberal rhetoric. That’s a fact.

The simple truth is that our founding fathers did not believe all men were created equal or they wouldn’t have considered a slave to be three-fifths the value of a person.

In light of this truth, Juneteenth is not a “joke.” Acknowledging the truth of our history is not a joke. Celebrating the decades of work of abolitionists is not a joke. Gathering to mark the day that hundreds of thousands of Americans were freed is not a joke.

To the people that are bothered by Juneteenth, I have a question for you: Why do you care?

Why do you care that people are celebrating freedom? Why does it bother you? Is it because Juneteenth isn’t about you? Is it because you feel like you have nothing to celebrate on that day?

What is so wrong about celebrating someone else’s freedom?

Just because you feel like you have nothing to celebrate doesn’t mean a holiday isn’t worth celebrating. If you are literally incapable of expanding your world view to include the lived experiences of other people, then you are the only “joke” here.