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The hidden lessons of Juneteenth

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18.06.2021

It is only a matter of time before a flood of Juneteenth trinkets, tchotchkes, doodads and gewgaws shows up on store shelves.

But let’s remember this: The enslaved people at the core of this new holiday were merchandise themselves before slavery finally came to an end. As Juneteenth becomes a holiday that offers another excuse for parties, parades and prodigious capitalism, I am betting that a lot of Americans will fail to see that irony.

We all know what happens to holidays in America — the thing that we are actually supposed to commemorate somehow gets shoved aside in a whirlwind of sales, travel incentives and themed merch.

Memorial Day, for instance, is more about the unofficial start of summer than honoring those lost to war. Labor Day closes out the season with nary a nod toward the labor movement or the workers who died in the Pullman Strike that led to that holiday’s creation in the first place. Presidents’ Day is supposed to be a time for honoring past leaders but happens to fall at an opportune moment for automakers to roll out their discounts.

With its timing on the calendar, its pithy moniker and its roots in Black culture, Juneteenth is sure to be a marker for celebrations and a whole lot of barbecue. I’m down for that. And enslaved people getting their freedom is cause for celebration, family-strong gatherings and line-dancing the wobble late into........

© Washington Post


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