We demanded reparations. They made Juneteenth a holiday instead.

by Tanesha Peeples
We demanded reparations. They made Juneteenth a holiday instead.
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Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is some gaslighting stuff if I’ve ever seen it. And I can feel some of y’all reading this and saying, “Black people are never satisfied”—well, you’re damn right. We won’t be satisfied with table scraps labeled “liberty and equality,” tossed at us as an attempt to silence us or make us ignore hunger pains for justice. That’s what legalizing Juneteenth as a holiday really is, and we won’t be satisfied until all Black lives truly matter in this country.

Riddle me this—How do you justify making Juneteenth a federal holiday when there are large pockets of people determined to protect their privilege and guard white kids from the nasty truths of this country by fighting to ban the teaching of history and conversations about race in classrooms? Please make that make sense for me!

The most audacious insult is, this is being said in a country that continuously turns a blind-eye to state sanctioned violence, particularly violence at the hands of police that’s taken the lives of 181 Black people since George Floyd was murdered. We’re not even going to get into the willful neglect and mortality rates of Black women at the hands of the healthcare industry, assaults on Black men in the criminal justice system, and the daily spirit murdering of all Black people suffering from trauma just trying to survive in America.

And let’s be very clear … lawmakers didn’t just make Juneteenth a federal holiday out of the kindness of their hearts. Activists had to raise hell for this recognition—similar to how we’re fighting for reparations. 

Juneteenth holiday masks inaction on reparations

On the subject of reparations, riddle me something else—how was it so easy for y’all to make Juneteenth a federal holiday acknowledging that at least from 1619 to 1865, Black people were wronged but still scratchin’ y’all heads on reparations? Especially when they were paid to slave owners for them to agree to free their slaves? Make it make sense for me—somebody, please.

But when I think about it, the 85% of Americans that oppose reparations for Black people—believing the government can make it right with an apology—are probably the ones instigating fights to ban activism in classrooms in fear that advocacy and activism might actually get that done.

I have one final question going beyond the gross attack on teaching history and denial of reparations. How can a country acclaim itself for commemorating Black “freedom” when, overall, it consistently blocks a proven pathway to self-determination in public education.

Educational plantation

Our kids are sitting in educational plantations disguised as public schools. Schools where their genius is stifled by staff who don’t believe in them. Buildings where they’re dehumanized and terrorized by overseers in SRO and police uniforms. They’re redlined according to ZIP code—their access to quality and investment are determined by their race and socioeconomic status. They’re “property” to a system that values them for their per pupil funding because they are now the new cotton. This is not freedom.

America, you tried it. Whether or not Juneteenth was recognized as a national holiday, we’re still going to celebrate it and fight for our freedom. We’re not going to forget about or let go of the fact that you owe us and our history so much more. And we don’t want your feigned policies as a settlement for the kidnapping, enslavement, murder, erasure and present-day brutality against our people.

So thanks for the acknowledgement 157 years later but, no thanks—it’s not good enough. 

2 comments

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