A "Nothing Will Fundamentally Change"
by C. A. Matthews
The white man will try to satisfy us with symbolic victories rather than economic equity and real justice. -- Malcolm X
I was not particularly excited to hear that Biden had signed a proclamation making Juneteenth into a federal holiday recently. I read somewhere that Juneteenth is already a holiday in 47 states, so it comes across as too little, too late in regards to turning it into a federal holiday. But Biden's timing on making it a holiday really begs the question, "Why now?"
If you get your news headlines from independent news sources, the answer to that question is fairly obvious. Not everyone is so enlightened, so here is a short explanation to make things clear:
Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis, who are trying to maintain the memorials erected to George Floyd, are being pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, and shot at by police with rubber bullets. Cops across the country are still getting away with the murders of and assaults upon people of color. Violence against non-white Americans hasn't gone away just because Trump isn't in the White House.
Upwards of 11 million Americans--many of them people of color--face homelessness when the moratorium on evictions ends on June 30th. Twenty-six states are kicking 3.6 million people off the dole during a pandemic, ending the $300 extra weekly unemployment benefits. The pandemic has ended many jobs in the service sector once and for all, which affects many black and brown workers. And we're still without Medicare For All, a universal health care plan that would cover Americans no matter their work or health status.
Of course, racism is still rampant in the US, reparations for slavery have never been made, restitution for the burning down and massacre of black residents of the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma (among others), has never been made, and the differential in wealth between white and black families has never been higher. The average net wealth gap between white and black households is $800,000 according to a survey taken in 2016. According to the Brookings Institute, if black households held a share of the national wealth in proportion to their share of the total US population, it would amount to $12.68 trillion in household wealth, rather than the actual sum of $2.54 trillion.
The actual racial wealth gap in the US is $10.14 trillion. That's a lot of reparations to be made, isn't it?
Can you imagine the billionaire capitalists--who have made the majority of their wealth from the poorly-paid labor of people of color--paying their fair share of taxes and returning that stolen wealth to African American communities? Our tax code is not blind, and people of color find themselves being penalized more often than upper-class whites.
So, why now? Why make Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021? Because politicians will do anything to distract the public from considering how little they actually care about what is happening--or what will happen--to any of us.
To quote Emma Goldman: "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." Some politicians might want to make voting more difficult for people of color, but it's not illegal yet. That's only because it does serve a purpose--it distracts many into thinking that the current governmental system actually works in their favor as they're forced to vote for the "lesser of two evils."
So, pardon me if I label June 19th as a "Nothing Will Fundamentally Change" federal holiday because nothing has been set in motion by the federal government to demonstrate that things will change for the better for African Americans and for other non-white Americans. I'd love to be proven wrong, but I have the sad feeling I won't be.
We should keep celebrating
and remembering what Juneteenth signifies, but we shouldn't forget that there's still much to be done to make things
right for every American. Celebrate but don't forget. It's what they want us to do, so let's not give them the confidence that they've thrown the wool over our eyes by creating another bank holiday that most poor people of color will be forced to work. Let's keep fighting for justice. Let's keep fighting for fundamental change.
To honor Juneteenth, 2 facts:— Richard D. Wolff (@profwolff) June 20, 2021
1) US capitalism profited from slavery before Civil War ended it.
2) US capitalism profited from and reproduced racism directed against African-Americans ever since.
History suggests that getting beyond capitalism will help us get beyond racism.
I’m happy folk are happy but this is also very precarious. Mainstreaming Juneteenth means there’s now massive amt of inaccurate messaging—“it marks end of slavery”—and its very clear its being used to push a false idea of “progress” instead of a call to dismantle white supremacy— DEFUND & ABOLISH POLICE, REFUND OUR COMMUNITIES (@BreeNewsome) June 19, 2021
From Public Citizen:
Some quick history:
- Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862.
- It said that all enslaved people in Confederate states were to be freed as of January 1, 1863.
- But it was not until over two years later that Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865.
- And it was another two months before Union troops informed the last remaining slaves (in Texas) that they were free — on June 19, 1865.
Since then, Juneteenth (that’s June plus nineteenth)
has been a day to reflect on not just the history of slavery but also
its ongoing effects and the work we still have to do together to bring
about racial justice.
Yesterday — with legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden just last week — the United States officially observed Juneteenth as a federal holiday for the first time.
The historic legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday was introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.
Tell Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee:
Thank you for leading the way to make Juneteenth a federal holiday!
Add your name.
Thanks for taking action.
- Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen