5 things white people need to hear on Juneteenth

OPINION: In the freedom-inspired spirit of Juneteenth, here are five pieces of advice for anyone truly interested in making America great again.

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I love Juneteenth.

I don’t want to brag but long before white America discovered the 159-year-old celebration for the end of the constitutionally enforced, race-based system of forced labor and intellectual theft, I was the Household of Faith Annual Juneteenth Bazaar’s six-time undefeated Biblical Pursuit champion (I’m pretty sure it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records).

During the preparation for my unprecedented championship run, I found out that the name “Juneteenth” wasn’t in the Bible. Nor was the portmanteau of “June” and Nineteenth” created by my mom, who was notorious for coming up with terrible names (HYPU, for instance). When I learned that Juneteenth was a day to celebrate the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans, I could only imagine the words that came tumbling out of the mouths of the newly liberated freedmen on that glorious day.

On the first Juneteenth, those former slavemasters were on the receiving end of pent-up, pure, unadulterated truth. Aside from learning about how they smelled after a rainfall and hearing the word “mother” paired with an expletive for sex for the first time (I haven’t done the etymological research) those former slavemasters probably learned a thing or two about a lazy, violent, uncivilized country called America.

This is what Juneteenth means to me.

If white people truly want to celebrate Juneteenth, what better way to honor America’s actual Independence Day than hearing a few uncomfortable truths? Instead of quoting Abraham Lincoln or wearing a dashiki made of safety pins, why not take some of the sage advice from the people who made America great the first time?

To be clear, I’m not insinuating that Black people have been lying to y’all the other 364 days this year. But we know how y’all are. After experiencing the nationwide pearl-clutching over African Americans’ subtle suggestions like civil rights, democracy and paying people for labor, we tend to keep our crazy ideas to ourselves. So this Juneteenth, perhaps our Caucasian brothers can give the greatest Juneteenth gift of all:

Listen to Black people.

Here are five things white people need hear on Juneteenth.

5.  The national anthem sucks.

Look, I know “The Star Spangled Banner” is right up there with that great Taylor Swift song about her ex-boyfriend and that Beatles ditty to their homeboy Jude. I just think we can do better.

First of all, when was the last time you heard anyone use the term “spangled”? I thought star spangling was some kind of weird sexual fetish for astronomers until I learned that it was just how white people say “bedazzled” (It’s the only question I got wrong in my near-perfect 1988 Biblical Pursuit run). Not to mention that there’s a whole verse about slavery. You can’t be mad at Colin Kaepernick for not wanting to stand for a slavemaster lullaby every time he went to work. And I’m not gonna get into the part about the violence in the song. I know hip-hop is pretty violent, but the current anthem doesn’t even slap. You can’t even do a line dance to it!

Aside from the fact that Francis Scott Key is a one-hit wonder, think about the marketing opportunities you’re missing out on. Think about it.  You live in a country filled with people who created the most popular, most profitable music on the entire planet represented by a song with no bass line. The royalties from a Pharrell-produced national anthem written by Stevie Wonder and sung by Beyoncé could wipe out the national debt.

Or, since all American music is “borrowed” from Black artists maybe we could just claim eminent domain on an already-existing song. Think how dope it would be to hear an entire baseball stadium singing “Not Like Us.” That’s how you honor the troops.

I feel a little patriotic every time I hear “Mustard on the beat ho.”

4. Stop being so fragile.

After a few centuries of years of free labor, why are y’all so afraid to compete on an even playing field?

I know you think affirmative action is anti-white, but if your people can’t capitalize on the privileges of headrights, slavery, Jim Crow, separate but equal, redlining, better-funded schools, legacy admissions, higher pay, the school-to-white privilege pipeline, police restraint, judicial preference, employer preference, voting rights and control of every political, economic and social institution in America, then maybe it’s your culture.

It’s time for the white community to stop playing the victim and pull yourselves up by the bootstraps you were given at birth. If you stopped looking up to depraved, violent savages like Thomas Jefferson and Donald Trump, people might be willing to embrace you. After experiencing genocide, oppression, internment, exclusion and demonization you can’t blame Native Americans, Black Americans, Asian Americans, Muslims, Jews, Mexicans or anyone else for not wanting you in their neighborhoods.

Instead of taking responsibility for your actions, you blame everyone else. You didn’t own slaves, you just profited from a slave economy. You didn’t massacre Indigenous people, you just got free land once they were removed. You didn’t create segregated schools, you just used the stolen tax dollars to educate yourself and create generational wealth. It’s never your fault.

So stop crying about being oppressed. We’re tired of hearing you whine about nonsense like DEI, wokeness, CRT, trans bathrooms, the gay agenda, the war on Christianity, Black Lives Matter, great replacement theory, Black mermaids, Mexican caravans, Sharia law, stolen elections, jack-booted thugs, masks, vaccines and democracy.

If you don’t like it, maybe you should go back to Europe.

3. America is aight.

Stop accusing every non-straight, non-white, non-Christian group of hating America.

Juneteenth

If Black protesters, Muslim worshippers, immigrants, multiculturalism and leftists are unpatriotic because they criticize their country, then what about all the white people who fought to make America great again? I’m not just talking about the current MAGA Republicans; I’m referring to the confederate flag flyers who are still dedicated to the lost cause. How can a person who loves their country secede from it? What about the racial terrorists during Reconstruction who used violence to take the rights of their fellow Americans just because they were Black? When the Supreme Court declared that segregation was unconstitutional, why didn’t you call out the anti-American segregationists?

If you’re going to make America great again, doesn’t that mean it isn’t great now?

I’m not saying I love America like I love my grandmama or sweet potato pie. America is just fine. It just needs a little seasoning — a few sprinkles of justice and equality — and it will be something to be proud of. While I’ve never seen a purple mountain (except that one time when the Ques went to Colorado) I like America’s four spaceship guys and Broadway’s cocaine (I guess). America is beautiful. To be clear, this doesn’t mean I hate my country any more than pointing out a leak in my roof doesn’t mean I hate my house. As with my home, I understand that no country is perfect. But, because I choose to live here, I am willing to do what is necessary to make it better.

America is a fixer-upper.

2. The Constitution isn’t that great.

Look, I’m not going to bring up the three-fifths clause or the fugitive slave clause. I’m talking about the other parts. But, if we were going to build a country from scratch, there’s no way we’d use the same Constitution. So, I have a few edits:

  1. Democracy: Even if we kept the Electoral College, why not let everyone vote for president and then count votes? The person with the most votes would be president. And here’s another idea: The right to vote should be guaranteed in the Constitution.

  2. Supreme Court: Besides emperors, kings and messiah Lakers, who else gets to keep their jobs for life? Two of the current Supreme Court justices are literally old enough to remember when our beloved banner had only 48 spangles. Some of them were partially educated under Jim Crow. If we can’t kick them off for selling their souls to Nazis, then how can we expect justice?

  3. An equal rights amendment: I think that explains itself.

  4. Congress: All the rules governing Congress should be in the Constitution, including filibusters, ratifying the presidential vote and confirming judges. How is there no law governing the people who make the laws?

The one we have now was cool for the days of muskets, slaves and horse-drawn carriages. But it’s 2024. It’s time.

1. Freedom is free.

Because if freedom isn’t free, you owe us some reparations.

I’m just saying.


Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His NY Times bestseller  Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America is available in bookstores everywhere.

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