Dear White Business, You Failed Blacks on Juneteenth
Juneteenth came on last Saturday and as a Black woman, what I expected to see happened. I saw an abundance of Predominately White Institutions (PWI’s) making public statements and actions of what they consider “celebrations” of the newly established National Holiday. One particular article surrounding a popular build it yourself company out of Sweden, engaged in celebrating Juneteenth by adding to their menu in addition to their hot dogs and cinnamon rolls, soul food. The likes of fried chicken, yams, collard greens and watermelon and other traditional foods of African slaves and the lineage of African-Americans were offered in its Atlanta location.
My discovery of this prompted a share with my colleagues in hopes to engage in a dialogue around problematic allyship. One of the response was a suggestion that the Black employees should have coordinated and planned the BBQ event. Here is my response…
I think they dropped the ball here for sure. I personally would not recommend the work, emotional labor, secondary trauma, falling on the Black employees to plan a BBQ regardless of whom assumes the bill. The food, (most often leftovers) that Black people were forced to eat or what had to be made due with, is not (in my opinion) a celebratory meal with an open invitation. These are practices and efforts that some Blacks like me, are trying to rid ourselves of due to its preparation (fried, sodium, sugar etc.) are apart of what drives health disproportionality in our community.
Is this same approach of “celebrating Juneteenth” has anyone ever questioned why there is no “end of holocaust” food celebration call to action? The imprisoned people and survivors may have painful connections to the food of the times, as I would assume with indigenous people’s experiencing boarding schools.
I keep remembering that foods construct culture and it can be familiar and traumatic having the association and in this case with Black people, having chicken and watermelon be a negative and taunting stereotype that has haunted our people overtime.
It is offensive from every direction in my opinion. It’s almost like a “get over it” stance and attempt to change the narrative of history rooted in racism to be a neutral “celebration” emotion as a deflection to make it more tolerable for the oppressor (white people) and predominantly white institutions are at the helm of this shift it seems.
For the record, Juneteenth is not 4th of July, as in it is an open free -for -all people celebration. We don’t see businesses, even our own org, encourage the public in posts to celebrate the 4th by cooking and eating American (red white and blue) flag color themed fare, like hotdogs and hamburgers, red links, blueberry pie, or white mashed potatoes, mayo or potato salad. If we want to do it for one group, let’s pull out the stereotypes for all and do it for all every time.
Doesn’t sit right with right with a DEI lens huh?
But this is the high level look that must be taken in all of these decisions. Asking ourselves how it lands and applies in various examples before we allow our confidence in being an ally corrupt our delivery and image as an entity.
I’m on a tangent I know, but it’s so frustrating to see the above and beyond attempts to be an Ally that always seem to fall offensively short. We must do better without relying on Black people to do it for us or assume what we as Black people want or will appreciate it.
The holiday should be focused on your role and connection to the history as an ancestor to individuals YOU relate to.