by Gray Graham
As someone that has celebrated Juneteenth for longer than most of you have been alive it pains me to see all these responses from people about Walmart selling Juneteenth ice cream right next to the 4th of July sherbet. About twenty years ago I was trying to get Black people to to acknowledge and support Juneteenth at some major organizations. At the time I got a lot of rejections and disinterest especially from Black people from the Northeast or Black immigrants. They had never heard of Juneteenth and once they were told what it was, they had no interest in doing anything for it.
So you will have to forgive me if I call foul on all these Black people online complaining about Walmart selling Juneteenth wares. You knew last year they were going to sell Juneteenth merchandise just like they do ever single other holiday. I promise you that if major corporation did nothing to acknowledge the existence of Juneteenth, some of the same people complaining now about them selling Juneteenth red velvet ice cream would be complaining that retailers were ignoring Juneteenth as a holiday and not giving it the same respect as Independence Day. I know my Christian African American brothers and sisters are not complaining about buying stuff for Juneteenth when they just spent money celebrating the death of Jesus Christ on Easter.
Last year when Juneteenth was made a national Federal holiday, I had more than a few Black people curse me out because what kind of self respecting Black man would want a national holiday for the end of slavery. A long time friend basically said I and others like local civil rights heroine Ms Opal Lee, were just being passive puppets to the white supremacy.
While many of us have always celebrated Juneteenth as Jubilation Day, Jubilee Day, or Freedom Day under the mantra of none of us are free until all of us are free, others look at the day with anger that even after a war people still had their freedom taken from them for two years. There are a lot of African Americans that simply hate the day.
This all boils down to the fact many African Americans are ashamed of being Black specifically African Americans, the descendants of former African slaves. See racists white people are not the only ones that don’t want slavery taught in schools. Some African Americans are ashamed of their African ancestors and are ashamed of anything that reminds them of the African slaves.
Many African Americans want to be anything but African Americans. How many Black people become upset when they are referred to as African Americans? They will tell you that they have never been to Africa so don’t call them that. They don’t even realize that it was the newly freed African slaves that called themselves African Americans. Even though we have churches over 100 years old with African American in the name, many people think it is a term started by Jesse Jackson in the 90’s.
African Americans are not a monolith. Black people are not a monolith. There is not just one Black culture in the United States or the world. To racists we may all just be Black, but there are many different Black cultures in this country. Juneteenth is one of the only times where African Americans are clearly separated from our Black brothers and sisters. So no you can’t wear your Haiti Independence t-shirt to a Juneteenth celebration anymore than I would wear a Juneteenth shirt at a Haitian Independence Day celebration.
There is clearly a separation between what I like to call average Black people vs Black journalists and Black social media influencers. We often see various people online speak for Black people when they don’t actually have a connection to African American culture and the African American community. Many can not even define what African American culture is. For them if a person with dark skin does it then it is part of African American culture.
Let’s understand something, Walmart is not a white corporation. It’s a corporation just like all the other corporations out there. You are free to buy stock just like any white person. If you have a retirement account chances are you already own Walmart stock. Walmart and most of these organizations have African American employees, African American executives and African American leaders.
I fully understand, especially at the moment, that many people have a problem with corporate greed. Companies never miss an opportunity to turn any event or tragedy into a profit as we are seeing in America right. During the Black Lives Matter protests we saw people try to capitalize on that to make a profit. There were many Black people that used Black Lives Matter as a way to make money for themselves when they didn’t actually do anything for the larger Black community. Same thing goes for Juneteenth. There are plenty of Jamaican and Haitian people that are making Juneteenth merchandise to sell when they have no connection or love for the holiday at all.
I don’t know what happened to Black people over the past couple of decades. Actually I do know what happened to Black people and so does every other older Black person that warned us what was going to happened. I can only hope that one day we get our Blackness back but it definitely does not look like that is ever going to happen. Black people can’t even define what being Black is other than they want to make sure that they are not it. For too many of us see ourselves through the eyes of those that hate us just for existing.
Here we are as Black people; African Americans upset about a “white” store selling ice cream for Juneteenth. I have know many Black elders that would have thought that was a great accomplishment especially after having a Black President of the United States and a Black Vice President of the United States.
Instead we have people that want us to mourn and grieve and read books instead of taking just one day to just celebrate that despite all the evil that has been done to our people, African Americans not only survive but we thrive. People the world over copy our culture and follow our lead on a number of issues.
That’s what is really sad. African Americans have been abused and traumatized so much that we can’t even take a moment to have some joy as we prepare for the next battle. As my good friend told me, it is more important than ever for us to teach the younger generations about our history, experiences, and culture. There is a movement in our country today to completely remove the history of African Americans from schools and colleges.
We have leaders in this country who still have the same mentality as the Texas slave owners that refused to tell the African slaves they were free. They, like their forefathers, believe they are superior to all Black people and we are lesser than they are. African American is a joke to them and so is an African American holiday. See we are free but our freedom is always being challenged, just like our peace of mind. Juneteenth will always be a reminder to America that it’s sins of slavery still affect us today and it is something that we as a society will have to work hard to repent.
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