Is commercialized Juneteenth as good as it gets for most Black people?

Ricky L. Jones

June 18th, America’s newest national holiday, was quite the commercial celebration this year. There were television specials, concerts and T-shirts galore. Wal-Mart even tried selling a Juneteenth ice cream before a small national uproar prompted them to pull it off the shelves.

Of course, American commercialization is usually accompanied by an emptying out of substance and Juneteenth is not immune to that process. As Black people continue to choose contemporary entertainment over political and historical education, and performative programs over real calls for power, it’s unclear how many left this year’s festivals with a more mature understanding of American chattel slavery, Emancipation, Reconstruction and the lingering consequences of them all.

In a recent Time article on the June 19th and the possibility of African American Reparations, Janell Ross wrote that “thinly disguised” efforts “to keep Black Americans as the nation’s permanent underclass” have persisted from immediately after Emancipation to this day. Disturbingly, those endeavors have been so successful that it’s reasonable to ask if this is as good as it’s going to get economically, politically and socially for the majority of Black Americans?

Sadly, the answer may be yes.

Choose any American city, from bustling metropolises to sleepy towns, and you will see that many members of the Black underclass live in a different and dark world. The “predominantly Black side of town” is usually poor, undereducated, drug infested, violent and politically powerless. Unless something radically changes, they will remain that way for the foreseeable future. After all, who is there to stem the crushing tide of Black suffering?

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