By Diane Benavides Wille, vice president, Equity, Inclusion & Workforce Development
Most know that Juneteenth is an annual holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told they were free. In recent years, Juneteenth has become more prominent. Why is it important to continue to highlight Juneteenth?
Many of us can recall exactly where and when we saw the murder of George Floyd. Nationwide protests ensued and race relations, historical systemic oppression, and racial profiling all came flooding back to the surface for many, and returned center stage to the nation’s attention. George Floyd’s murder wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others have renewed interest in Juneteenth, a day that celebrates freedom.
Over 150 years have passed since slavery was ended in this country and yet as a whole, we grapple with how to acknowledge our history in an honest, unbiased view and recognize the consequences of slavery; consequences that continue to endure to present day. Juneteenth is an opportunity to acknowledge openly, the harm that this country was founded upon.
If you want to learn more about the origins of racism in America and the long-range effects on our population, please consider reading Caste, The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson.
As we continue to acknowledge, reconcile and, dare I say, begin to heal from our nation’s past, we look to Juneteenth and its designation now as a federal holiday, as a commitment to acknowledge systemic racism, racial inequities, and continued perseverance for the work that lies ahead in dismantling system racism.