An Open Letter to White People Who Have Recently “Discovered” Juneteenth

Dear White People who just discovered Juneteenth,

Hello! I am so glad you are here. I found out about Juneteenth in 2007 when my black students told me about it. How someone can get to a school in Atlanta as the teacher and not know about Juneteenth is perhaps something to ponder. Anyway, I too was late to this particular party so I will not shame you for your tardiness. I would however like to make some recommendations about how to act correctly at this particular party. There are some things we need to understand.

This party is not for us: Let me explain. When we think of going to a Juneteenth party many of us (by us I mean white people) think of it like a graduation party, and YEAH! WE ALL GRADUATED! Ahem. No. Not at all. Think of it like showing up at a siblings graduation party. WE didn’t do anything. THEY did something. THEIR name is on the cake. THEY get all the presents. Every single one. There is nothing at the Juneteenth party that has our name on it because we are not children who needed concillatory gifts. We are grown ups, celebrating a piece of history. It is not our history. It is still worth celebrating. So go and have cake and bring a gift and be joyous, but do not be all salty because it is not about you. Because IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU

We might not even be invited: There are a lot of Juneteenth celebrations out there. Some are literally not for white people. If you think that is unfair, may I suggest it is perhaps more unfair that slavery was a thing that needed to be abolished in the first place? And if you think slaver is actually abolished then I have a Juneteenth activity just for you! Watch Ava Duverney’s 13 on Netflix. It is free and in your house already. If you are looking for a Juneteenth thing to actually go to, make sure your presence is welcome. Juneteenth is not and will never be about us. Sometimes black freedom needs to be celebrated without white people around. Make sure you go to places you are welcome. If you think it is totally valid for your girl to be allowed to have an all girls slumber party for her own birthday then you really should have no trouble understanding this.

Celebrating Juneteenth is NOT “the work.” So you have probably seen a bunch of posts about “the work” and doing “the work.” The work is anything that you do to help dismantle systemic racism in yourself, your community, and the world. The self thing is really just pre-work. You need to do it in order to get ready to actually affect change somewhere. Just like buying the gear is not the work out, reading and thinking and listening and learning are super important and you need to do them, but it is just like buying yoga pants and a yoga mat. It doesn’t mean you can actually do the yoga. Celebrating Juneteenth is good! But it in no way means you are doing “the work” so don’t post on social media as though it is. You know how cringey all those “look at my new bike” posts feel when two years later you literally cannot remember where your bike is? Yeah. Don’t do the anti-racism equivalent of that.

A great way to celebrate Juneteenth is to support black people! Buy from black people! Have dinner take out from a black owned restaurant! Literally Google it. There are so many lists to choose from! Also if you are thinking man, if I don’t know about Juneteenth what else am I missing? Buy this from Danielle. You are welcome.

Celebrate Juneteenth and don’t be a racist!