As the United States continues to reckon with the crack in its foundation, the legacy of slavery, our institutions are making small steps to finally recognize Juneteenth — commemorating the day enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865.
Yesterday, the president signed historic legislation to establish Juneteenth as a U.S. federal holiday. While the action signals a step forward as a nation, it is also a stark reminder of how far our country still has to go. Just as the journey to a perfect union doesn’t end with one verdict, a national holiday does not absolve the nation of its relationship with white supremacy.
Six months after the first Black and South Asian woman was confirmed as vice president of the United States, the right to vote remains threatened, and yet Black people are still called on to fight for democratic institutions that often don’t protect us — a bitter irony when we are historically our democracy’s strongest champions.
To be clear: symbolism is important. National recognition of Juneteenth and the celebration of its significance provide the chance to learn and discuss these difficult truths about our shared past. This weekend should absolutely be filled with events that celebrate Black culture — and shout out to that extra day off!
But imagine a world where the symbolism of a national holiday is coupled with equitable rights and a clear pro-democracy agenda. Imagine it, and use the image it conjures as motivation in the ongoing journey towards achieving that reality. Let’s call out policies that claim to secure elections but are designed to prevent Black people from making their voices heard. Let’s create and implement new reforms that foster diversity, equity, and inclusion — ones that build power and bring about racial and economic justice.
And as my dear friend LaTasha Brown of Black Voters Matter said, “This isn’t just a policy fight. We are fighting a culture of oppression.” We cannot take our foot off the gas. Instead, despite everything, we must double down.
Our democracy remains at risk until we fully reckon with the forces of systemic racism that boldly try to suppress Black voter participation while masking it with performative actions. We must stop the efforts to disenfranchise Black people or we will never achieve a healthy, open and just democracy. My grandmother often said, “baby. don’t get weary in well-doing.” These words resonate with this moment, and serve as a reminder that now is not the time to let weariness overcome the drive of good work.
America, there’s a crack in our foundation. Are we ready to rebuild?