Like many other tech companies who are attempting to be seen as “woke” and progressive during this period of heightened awareness of racial injustice, my company granted today, June 19th, or “Juneteenth” off as a holiday to allow employees to take time for themselves to educate themselves about this day in history. Juneteenth, rarely taught in schools, is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were now free. However, the issue here is that this news came to Texas 2.5 years AFTER then President Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official on January 1, 1963 (funnily enough, this is basically like how the country is run today; just because something becomes national “law” does not mean individual states instantly start enforcing these laws).
We had a series of programming lead by our Diversity and Inclusion Group (DIG) team along with our Optimizely.org rep. I joined one of the early sessions on the history of Juneteenth and also spent the day exploring the much quieter Manhattan Chinatown, buying different foods I’ve missed out on over these last few months, exploring bakeries and noodle/tofu shops that I’ve been wanting to buy from, and just wandering the streets to get a sense of what life is like now given so many businesses are either still temporarily closed, or have even permanently closed during this COVID-19 shelter-in-place period.
Throughout the day, I continued listening to the White Fragility book and lamented the fact that this book, like so many books, movies, articles that are so informative and enlightening, will likely never be received and consumed by those who need this information the most. It’s sad to think that even when people have willingly participated in anti-racism training with the author herself, Robin DiAngelo, that they will get angry when their own racism is called out in incidents they themselves chose to willingly share, and that they would then be a live example of white fragility in a classroom led by the White Fragility author. I am sure that similarly, many of my colleagues who so severely suffer from white fragility refused or declined to participate in our company’s Juneteenth events, likely because they are so consumed by their own feelings of *potentially* getting hurt in a situation where their hurt doesn’t even matter.