I didn’t always know what Juneteenth was – that was not taught when we learned about the Civil War. I was, sadly, an adult when I first learned about Juneteenth.
For those who still aren’t sure what it is, here’s a brief explanation from History.com about how Juneteenth came about.
As a follow up, here’s an article from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture about why Juneteenth is important.
And, just because it ties in, here’s what Critical Race Theory actually is, and why it’s become such a battleground.
The truth is, most people criticizing CRT don’t actually know much about it – and they certainly don’t want others to know about it, either. Keeping people ignorant keeps them easy to control and influence – it’s easy to sway people to hate by using aggressive rhetoric and propaganda if people don’t have good critical thinking skills.
Another piece of the CRT fight is discomfort – having to dig into systemic racism, and the link between racism and power, is highly uncomfortable for a lot of white people, and so they do an amazing amount of mental gymnastics to try to make CRT seem like the problem.
For me, it boils down to white people who want to be free to be racist without being held accountable for it. And those people fall all over the political spectrum – both liberal and conservative groups are rife with them. Politics do play in here, but it’s a whiteness problem first and foremost.
So while it’s great that Juneteenth is now a federal holiday and people are learning about it, it doesn’t solve racism. It’s merely giving a small nod to the enormous amount of work still left to do – as evidenced by people suddenly using Critical Race Theory (which is not typically taught in K-12 schools, btw) as a rallying cry.
What those anti-CRT folks really mean is, don’t teach our white kids about the actual plight of Black people. Education – and I mean that in the sense of knowledge, not diplomas and degrees – is a powerful and important tool needed to dismantle systems of oppression. Teaching white kids what Black kids already know might do things like create empathy and lead to outrage and questioning of highly ingrained institutional structures.
And one thing about human nature? Even if the institutional/social structure is absolutely horrifying, people will always fight – violently – to defend it. Even if the system is rigged against them, too. Even if the leaders they worship clearly have nothing but disdain for them – they will fight change.
Knowledge is one really powerful way to fight back. But knowledge without action is useless.
On this Juneteenth, let’s honor the day by thinking of three things you can do to further anti-racism. Try to come up with things that are something other than some version of “work on myself.” What are three action items I can take to help Black people and truly begin to be and to demonstrate anti-racism?