Juneteenth and the Vestiges of Slavery in the US

Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in Texas after the Civil War (1861-1865), is celebrated today (June 19) in the U.S. But at the same time, there are practices taking place that, far from eliminating racism, are aggravating it.

The anniversary, popularly known as the second Independence Day, also recognizes the contributions of African culture to the national identity.

However, newspaper headlines remind us daily of the debts to the African American community which have yet to be repaid, and warnings about the manifestations of a growing racism are intensifying.

Today, in addition to police violence and inequality of access to health care and education, protests are being launched against portrayals of the abuses to which Black people have been subjected, and also against the art they’ve created.

The NAACP, for example, recently issued a travel advisory in which it claims that the government of Florida promotes racism. The NAACP’s statement stressed that “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans,” maintaining that “the State of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of and the challenges faced by African Americans and other minorities.”

The statement was, in part, a response to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration’s blocking of an Advanced Placement African American studies course, which was subsequently not offered in secondary schools in the state.

As NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson pointed out, “failing to teach an accurate representation of the horrors and inequalities that Black Americans have faced and continue to face is a disservice to students and a dereliction of duty to all.”

The revised curriculum deleted the names of several Black authors identified as problematic by Florida officials and eliminated a section on the Black Lives Matter movement.

To cite only two examples, the growing censorship of literature which portrays the country’s systemic racism has led to the banning, in various school districts and libraries, of works by writers Angie Thomas and Toni Morrison that are considered to be of great value.

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, Morrison’s book “The Bluest Eye” has already been the subject of more than 30 bans and 73 challenges questioning the appropriateness of its content.

The novel, first published in 1970, relates the story of a Black girl born during the Great Depression. In the judgment of scholars, it is a meditation on the oppressive nature of the conception of white-centric beauty.

Thomas has not escaped the fervor for removing books that describe uncomfortable truths from the shelves, either. According to the Los Angeles Times, one of the 15 books banned most often in schools this year is her young adult novel “The Hate U Give,” which revolves around a young woman who witnesses the police murder of a young man who has been her best friend since infancy.

Although the celebration of Juneteenth has helped raise awareness of the current problems faced by the African American community, questions as basic as the distribution of works that present its history are under serious threat today.

In combination with the other issues, this might be a contributing factor to the belief of the majority of Blacks in the U.S. that racism in their country will get worse during their lifetime.

According to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll, 51% of respondents of African descent expect that manifestations of discrimination on the basis of skin color will only become more entrenched.

Likewise, almost 70% of them said that it is more dangerous to be an adolescent now than when they were that age, including almost 80% of those who are 50 to 65 years old or older.

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