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Juneteenth Nice, But Critical Race Theory, Reparations Better

by Todd A. Smith

 

 

Now that America will finally recognize Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, as a national holiday I am torn.


On one hand, I can feel the presence of my ancestors like Solomon and Celia Huff leaving the plantations of their slave masters in Tangipahoa Parish, La. in 1865 brimming with relief and pride, excited to experience true freedom for the first time.


And then I can look at myself in Houston in 2021, not truly experiencing equality in this country when it comes to things like voting rights, banking and my interactions with police officers.


On top of that, when people from my community attempt to educate the masses on the current plight of the African-American community, race relations and critical race theory, many on the political right strike down that conversation because it makes them feel guilty and uncomfortable.


Therefore, Americans should all truly learn about and celebrate Juneteenth (June 19).


But make no mistake about it, a federal holiday does nothing to truly teach people about why the holiday was needed in the first place.


And celebrating a day off work will do absolutely nothing to bring this country together when it comes to systemic racism and bigotry.


Holidays often bring positivity to the world, whether people are celebrating the Fourth of July or honoring our fallen heroes on Memorial Day.


However, holidays can lose their meaning when they become overly commercialized like some Christian holidays.


Through little fault of their own, Christians have seen their holidays lose meaning over the years as companies seek to capitalize off the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Companies that might not have a Christian working for the business, will sell everything from Easter baskets to Christmas trees, often not even acknowledging the real purpose of the holidays.


Many people even use the word Xmas instead of Christmas to eliminate Christ from his own holiday.


Instead of celebrating the birth and resurrection of Christ, people across the world celebrate Santa Claus, reindeers and the Easter bunny.


Merry Christmas turns into Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays.


Additionally, Resurrection Sunday becomes Easter Sunday.


On May 5, many people use Cinco de Mayo as an excuse to get a slamming margarita and eat the bomb nachos.


Many people probably do not even know that Cinco de Mayo celebrates the date in 1862 when the Mexican Army defeated France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.


Some people falsely belief that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day.


However, the real Mexican Independence Day is Sept. 16.


Furthermore, for many St. Patrick’s Day is just a day to drink a cold one and wear green.


But the day is to commemorate the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.


Therefore, making Juneteenth a national holiday is a much-needed gesture, and shout out to the mostly bipartisan support of the bill.


But having a holiday means nothing if we do not remember the purpose of the holiday.


Americans must use that day, and every other day, to educate themselves about the original sins of this country when it comes to race relations so that we can atone for our past iniquities.


Only then can we make sure that racism decreases in this country, and that we never go back to the days of discrimination like many states are trying to do with their voter suppression efforts.


The best example of a holiday somewhat living up to its purpose is Martin Luther King Day.


Throughout that day, one can watch speeches and watch parades commemorating King’s life work.


However, even Martin Luther King Day has gotten watered down because many in mainstream America seem to have only heard of two of his speeches, “I Have a Dream” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”


Many ignore some of his more radical criticisms of America and his speeches about the dangers of capitalism.


Many ignore how he held moderate White pastors’ feet to the fire when it came to their lack of support for the Civil Rights Movement.


Many ignore the fact that he believed that he had integrated his people into a burning house after he saw that integration did little to nothing to improve his people’s conditions in life.


Now, African-Americans face the same barriers to wealth and equality that they did when King died in 1968.


But at least we have a holiday, right.


In 2021, African-Americans demand systemic change not symbolism.


No longer will symbolic gestures or tokenism satisfy the people.


Yes, we will take the holiday because it is well-deserved.


We will even take a position in your company or organization because diversity is desperately throughout corporate America.


But token figureheads and holidays will not cut it.


African-Americans demand a change to the whole foundation of what this country was built on, and that is White supremacy, privilege and bias.


And to do that, we must start with the next generation because the current generation is a lost cause.


We must teach American children the truth about slavery and systemic racism.


No, we do not want to teach children that White people are evil.


But we cannot deny that what some White people have done to maintain and monopolize power is pure evil.


Therefore, we will keep fighting until Americans recognize the truths of critical race theory.


We will keep fighting until Americans realize that reparations for the descendants of slaves is long overdue.


So while we celebrated yesterday as President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a national holiday, we will reserve our real joy until the system is totally changed and true equality exists for everyone in this country.


This article was published on Friday 18 June, 2021.
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