June 19th, 2021, was the first time Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday. Before that, many white Americans had never even heard of it. Juneteenth is the day that commemorates the ending of slavery in America, which for enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, happened two entire years after the emancipation proclamation.
While many white Americans believe that Juneteenth is a Black holiday, we need to recognize it as an American holiday, even if we don’t celebrate it. But what can a white Midwest transplant in the south, like me, do to honor Juneteenth this year? Since June 19th fell on a Sunday, today is Juneteenth observed, so here are some things I can do to mark this day.
Consume Art by Black Artists
I am not ashamed to admit that I love watching television. Some shows are just background noise, but others I watch with rapt attention to take in the complexity of the storytelling. I have a handful of favorite shows across multiple genres. But years ago, as I first learned about BLM, I read a blog post where the writer asked that white people consume Black art. I dove in because I love television, and it was something simple I could do. Favorite shows include Atlanta, Lovecraft Country, the new Wonder Years, Watchmen, and Dear White People. And don’t forget about movies and music.
Speak Up About Racism
If you see something, say something. There have been times in my life that I fell back on simply ignoring a situation and moving on with my day. Racism is uncomfortable, but if it’s awkward to me, the problem is worse or even more dangerous for the Black person. I’m no longer willing to avert my eyes and walk away. When I see racist behavior, I say something.
Hold Other White People Accountable
To that end, I also have to hold other white people accountable for the things they say. There have been plenty of times when strangers will say something to me with that nod and wink of “we’re both white, so you understand.” I used to wave it off. Today, when someone tells me a joke with racist overtones, my go-to response is, “I don’t get it. Can you explain it to me?” This will put them on the spot and force them to think about what they’ve just said.
Recognize Internalized White Supremacy
I also have to recognize that we’re not perfect. As a white woman in America raised in the 80s, I need to accept that I have internalized white supremacy without even realizing it. What’s more important is to acknowledge when I have a thought, unpack it, and do better. White supremacy isn’t something Black Americans can fix. White people need to recognize and work to take down systems that perpetuate it.
Support Causes that Promote Equity and Inclusion
I also know that I need to make sure that I use my voice to support causes that promote equity and inclusion. This includes my voice, my money, and my time. Jesse Williams said on Twitter, “Equal rights for others doesn’t mean fewer rights for you. It’s not pie.” The local independent bookstore, Malaprops, put together a list of resources in my town of Asheville.
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