In Honor of Juneteenth

Why Non-Black Latinx People Should Embrace the Holiday

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Juneteenth Flag

Itwas on this day, 155 years ago, that enslaved people living in Galveston, Texas, finally received the news of their newfound freedom. The Emancipation Proclamation, established in the aftermath of the Civil War by President Abraham Lincoln, took 2 and a half years to reach them and was the result of the harrowing effort of Black abolitionists. Shot from the barrel of inequity, the legacy of land theft and slavery had burrowed deep within the social fabric of this nation forcing the short-lived celebration to give way to an era of uncertainty.

Now, in 2020, amid the backdrop of the global pandemic, financial crisis, and civil unrest over the consistent devaluation of Black life, the entire country is reckoning with the aching pain of being forced to remove the bullets from the infected wounds of its history. It’s a tragic reality that far too many are just now waking up to and there is no more anesthesia.

“…although race may be a biological fiction, its reality is seen in what is likely to happen to our lives. The more than forty million people of African descent who live in the United States recognize this reality, but it’s largely invisible in the lives of white Americans.”

— Jelani Cobb

This issue is not limited to just white folk, either. For Latinx people, this moment is equally important. While some community members have rallied to support Black Lives Matter, others have taken it upon themselves to decenter Black voices, erasing them altogether. Pervasive anti-Blackness reigns supreme within and outside of Latin America.

The denial of our complex relationship to the enslavement of Black and Indigenous peoples fueled by colorism are the pillars sustaining Latinidad — a horrifying indictment to the complicity of Latinx’s in upholding white supremacy. Our community’s attitude and obsession with that power structure is exposed when we claim proximity to whiteness at the expense of Black lives. We weaponize the xenophobia stemming from our internalized self-hatred for the possibility of harm reduction while using Black and Indigenous people as collateral. In sum, we do the work of our colonizers for them.

We must betray it.

Melanin Mvskoke

Centering Black liberation — and Indigenous sovereignty — does not result in a loss to Latinx people or causes any more than centering femme liberation is an affront to masculinity. They are, in fact, the catalyst breathing life into the collective spirit of the marginalized in our struggle toward freedom.

Alán Pelaez Lopez

We cannot carry on as though Afro-Indigenous Latinx people are a mythical unicorn, or that immigration and LGBTQIA+ issues are only Brown issues. They all cross paths at the same intersection. One in which Black people (in particular the Black femme) are disproportionately in harm’s way. That makes today’s festivities, demonstrations, and solemn observance all the more necessary.

“All communities should be celebrating Juneteenth, not just Black communities. All communities. Because Juneteenth is to black People what 4th of July is to ALL people in America: acknowledgement of freedom. Acknowledgement is the antithesis of invalidation.”

— Jordan Chaney

Dismantling the scourge of anti-Blackness within our community is just one basic step toward embracing our kin and celebrating with them. Acknowledging their freedom, and showering them with validation.

Black lives matter. It’s both a complete sentence and a declarative statement. It carries with it the powerful chorus of over 400 years of our fallen brethren. There’s no need to qualify it by adding Latinx for at the front of it.