Juneteenth 2021: A Holiday for Critical Reflection

Juneteenth is now recognized as a federal holiday in the United States and as a state holiday in Oregon.

Holidays are typically times for celebration and some reflection. For white people, Juneteenth must be a day for critical reflection on the legacy of slavery and how it currently manifests itself in our society. This means seeking out the truth of America’s history of oppression through enslavement for profit, and taking action against the systemic injustices that continue to happen, which are rooted in that history.

June 19th marks the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned that they were free — a full two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all enslaved persons in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands were freed, became effective in 1863.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery. Despite this celebration of freedom, the United States must also be engaged in a critical process of truth and reconciliation to get to equal justice for all. The legacies of slavery today are seen in the criminal justice system with mass incarceration, police brutality, and the death penalty disproportionately affecting Black people and other people of color.

As we develop traditions to celebrate Juneteenth, we as white people must prioritize our own critical reflection on white supremacy and how it manifests in our own lives, communities, and society.

We call on all white people to commemorate Juneteenth through education, consciousness raising, conversation, and action. Here are two paths to take, and we urge you to let us know what paths you are taking:

  1. This document (click here) has a list of resources that have been shared with us by BIPOC organizers, which we as SURJ Eugene-Springfield members have called “Duty to Engage” — one place to start for white people organizing for equal justice and specifically police reform and abolition.
  2. Learn more about Oregon’s legacy of racism and brutality. The Oregon Remembrance Project, founded by Taylor Stewart, aims to do the following:

With the support of the Equal Justice Initiative, this project is dedicated to remembering the death of Alonzo Tucker, Oregon’s only recorded African American victim of lynching. This website hopes to be a starting place for educating and inspiring future dialogue about race, racism, and white supremacy in our community.​

We hope to find reconciliation and communal healing through a sober reflection on history.

Taylor urges us to consider “Remembrance as a step toward reconciliation of an Oregon lynching…” this Juneteenth. On June 19, 2021, an historical marker recognizing the lynching of Alonzo Tucker, and acknowledging the history of racism in Coos Bay and the state of Oregon, was installed at the Coos History Museum

Article authored by Kelli, LTE/Messaging Committee

Springfield-Eugene Oregon chapter of Showing up for Racial Justice, a national network of groups and individuals working to undermine white supremacy.