Juneteenth — Why Millions See No Reason to Celebrate
Written by Kylie Patterson, Equity Vision Consulting, and Lillian Singh, Prosperity Now
To be clear, millions of Black people will not celebrate Juneteenth this year. We will not celebrate because we do not want to mark the end of a terrible moment in American history that made way for our persistent economic exclusion. We won’t celebrate because in spite of demonstrations, statements, and new policies, our reality has not changed. Racial inequality and in particular, racial wealth inequality, still reigns.
Perhaps, it is better to start at the beginning: What is Juneteenth? It is not the day Black slaves were emancipated. The Emancipation Proclamation preceded Juneteenth by almost two and half years. It is a holiday where we recognize the day union soldiers reached Galveston, Texas and told the last slaves of their freedom on June 19, 1865. The 13th amendment which officially abolished slavery would follow on December 18, 1865.
Over a hundred and fifty years later, Black people are still experiencing an all too familiar injustice where the color of our skin dictates our economic reality.
Today, while Blacks account for just under 13% of the nation’s population, we own less than 3% of the nation’s total wealth. The Black unemployment rate has stubbornly been two times that of the White unemployment rate for more than 20 years. Slavery ushered in the economic divide we see today, beginning with Black slaves working their entire lives without earning a wage. Following Emancipation, black codes, sharecropping and Jim Crow laws were quickly instituted to halt Black economic progress — laws and practices that economically oppressed, excluded and preyed upon Black people. Federal laws and investments continue to ensure the advancement and creation of the White middle class — while simultaneously the poll tax, racial covenants, redlining, segregated schools, prejudiced lending, and outright terrorism continue to block economic mobility pathways for Blacks.
And if you believe that these examples are old, it was less than 10 years ago, when we thought policies were in place to protect all consumers regardless of race, class or creed that we found Blacks were again the target of economic…