Juneteenth and #BlackLivesMatter

Demonstrators in Westlake Park during the “Black Lives Matter Friday” held last November. (Photo by Jama Abdirahman)


Today is Juneteenth. A day, for years, I struggled with. Considering that I learned of it only a few years back is indicative of the shoddy public school education I received. I struggled with Juneteenth for the same reason I struggle when I see my White brothers and sisters holding #BlackLivesMatter signs. “And then what?”

When I think about Juneteenth, it’s a day that I remember the time that racism trumped nationalism. The slaveholding Texas elite knew about the Emancipation Proclamation when it was signed. Yet, they still held to their slaves for 2 years after the initial document was signed. It was a month after the end of the Civil War when General Order No. 3 was read by General Gordon Granger at Ashton Villa. After the joyous moment of the announcement, those former slaves, then became sharecroppers underneath Jim Crow…slavery-lite. And of course, let’s not forget slavery was still in place in many parts of the North.

A couple weeks ago, while leaving my office, I passed by several white folks who were on their way to an anti-racism protest. Their walking fast when we pass each other or looking away when we make eye-contact wasn’t new. This happens 9/10 times when I pass white folks in the street. The irony is that they were carrying a sign with some variation of Black Lives Matter / George Floyd / Defund the Police messaging. It was ironic that “Blacks Lives Matter” in the abstract, but wasn’t worth looking or was to be feared in the actual.

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