Monday, June 21, 2021

Juneteenth and Incremental Change

This is essentially a version of my window dressing post. 
As Juneteenth became a holiday for the limited number of employees who are privileged to celebrate federal holidays, I thought of a few things. People often assume everyone gets holidays off. When you mention things like utility employees, first responders, hospital employees, and restaurant employees, as a start, they say,  well sure not them. But at least they get holiday pay. I mean maybe. Holiday pay is not legally required anywhere in the US. 
And of course I had a similar conversation with someone about Emancipation Day, which is a DC city holiday. A holiday that no school or company I have so far ever worked for took off. Again, thrilled for the folks who get it. 
DC's Emancipation Day dates back to 1862. Civil War buffs might note that predates the US Civil War. The US was getting pressure to get rid of slavery and so as a compromise they banned slavery in the Capitol. So like you just had to buy and sell people in Alexandria. (Those of you who recall that Alexandria was part of DC and then got given back to Virginia might be having a bit of an aha moment.)
I don't presume to know what the feelings were of the 3000 enslaved persons who were freed by this, but I imagine it was odd to be like yay free, but now where can I go, what can I do, especially when on all sides slavery was still happening. Just not in this truncated square city. 
And it took a war and some time to make further progress on the I guess slavery is bad front. 
But it occurred to me that maybe that was a thing to hope for here. Not war. But that this additional holiday was a step in remembering and acknowledging the harmful policies our country enacted and continues to try to address. That the holiday is clearly not the end, but a step along the way towards more progress.