Can I Celebrate Juneteenth If I’m White?

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Can I Celebrate Juneteenth If I’m White?

White People Asking Questions is a series where White people submit questions and they are posed anonymously to the public for a 24-hour period and are answered anonymously. 

Oftentimes White people have questions about themselves, People Of Color (POCs), or awkward situations, but are afraid to ask them due to public backlash. On the other hand, POCs get asked these questions every day and are burdened with the emotional labor of constantly explaining the same concept to people that will never relate because it is not their experience. 

But just because you can’t relate doesn’t mean you don’t want to learn and do something about it. Amirite? As Angela Davis said, “You have to be intentionally and actively anti-racist.”

Therefore, this series is having the conversation on how White People can be ACTIVE in dismantling racist systems and not passively watching. What is unique, though, is this series is set up to be answered primarily BY White People FOR White People teach each other about their privileges.

POCs are always welcome to participate in dialogue, but this also creates a space for POCs to watch White People do the work in educating each other. Many times our communities are so disconnected that we don’t know the conversations happening amongst other communities. This is also meant as a resource for POCs to direct White People to for difficult concepts.

How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch wants to acknowledge and thank everyone who took on the emotional labor of sending in these responses. We include all responses that are directly relevant to answering the question. We don’t filter or edit, but we do correct spelling and grammatical errors. Highlighted at the bottom in red are the main takeaways.

The Question

I’m wondering if it’s appropriate to attend a local Juneteenth event. As a White family, I want to be careful that we don’t participate in the co-opting of Black spaces, and I’m sure there are other considerations, too, especially with kids involved. As an aspiring historian, it’s also personally important to me to acknowledge all of history and not just the dominant mythology, and that will take intentionality. I’m just not entirely sure if direct participate in an event that seems geared toward Black People is the best way to do it?

Black Responses

I think it’s worth acknowledging that in many places that you go, the victims of oppression will invite anyone and everyone even if it is some White People. I feel like a lot of Black People are welcoming and want people to come and learn, eat and have fun. Yet it’s also acknowledging even after your people have done some serious fucked up shit and you go to a Black Person’s space and they still make sure you are fed? Talk about heart, grace and mercy. I think it’s just important for folks if they do go to these events to not feel so comfortable and spoil the invite (if it’s there). And maybe it’s OK for a White family to go and not feel comfortable and they can teach their kids that their discomfort don’t mean shit compared to what Black People have to face on a daily basis. I also don’t see it as a bad thing for White folks to want to celebrate Juneteenth. But it should never end at just taking the fam to Juneteenth and thinking that we done ended racism. I am a mixed Black woman!

Sure, just don’t attend wearing matching family dashikis (I’ve seen this with my own eyes) and leave your potato salad at home if it is a BYO event.

Adding on to this: a friendly reminder that *many* (if not most) POC are some level of lactose intolerant. Bringing dairy-heavy dishes is arguably Euro-centering. Plus potato salad is basically boogers.

Wait now – my kin people like potato salad (but not with no damn raisins or some crazy shit like that). Is potato salad just a Southern thing or no?! Currently questioning all of my family gatherings lmao.

I’m a POC and although Black People might welcome you, especially if you show up with kids, because that’s who we are…I don’t think this is the time or place to do a family history lesson. (I’m assuming/hoping the person or organization holding this event is Black?) I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that this White family isn’t really involved in the Black community and potentially don’t have Black friends which could be even more problematic if they showed up. All families, especially White families should educate their children and selves about the TRUE history of slavery. Do a Juneteenth LESSON at home and maybe…y’all shouldn’t celebrate it? Given it’s the history of your ancestors further exploiting, lying, and abusing Black People after slavery ending. Just a thought…

I’m a POC – and I don’t know WHY you need to go be in this space. I don’t know why after everything White People have done why they also need to insert themselves (NO MATTER YOUR INTENTION) into the spaces that the people’s who have been directly oppressed by your own people’s violence have made for themselves. Ask yourself WHY do you need to be included? Can’t support simply by like donating to a cause or person but not TAKING space.

Honestly, why they gotta be up in our bidness for.

POC here, reminding people, including other non-Black POC, that you can’t just *call* yourself an ally. That’s also an invitation that should come from the person with the oppressed identity. So if you’re not invited, you’re probably not wanted there.

When in the history of ever could an event be advertised publicly as “No Whites allowed”? This lady forget what country and planet we’re on?

Mixed here. I find irony in White folks being present at events that are necessitated because White People were present in the first place. I know it’s hard to accept, but unless someone invited you, you need to accept the idea that some spaces aren’t for you. This is for the people involved and not an eye opener or teaching moment for you to gain something from. Sorry if I sound dicksh. Ha.

White Responses

White Person here – if you’re unsure what about seeing if some Black owned businesses near you are commemorating Juneteenth and going there to support them/spend your money? For instance there’s a few Black owned backers near me that’ll have special desserts that weekend.

White Person answering. Hmm, Idk if I would do this. The “end” of slavery created even more cruelty, and hatred from White People along with new ways too oppress. Unless it is specifically expressed that it is an open event, I would probably just make it a different learning experience for a White family, and address why the end of slavery was far from the end because we know they won’t learn that in US schooling.

Would it be more meaningful to sign up for the clean up crew after instead of attending as a party guest?

White lady here: Or if you do go ask to be of service, make sure food is full, people hav drinks of choice and clean up after. Might be able to be both part of and the side lines. Personally unless I knew someone personally I would not go.

White Person here. Agreed. Unless you were invited by a Black Person who is the descendent of enslaved folks, this isn’t for you. Find another way to learn about it, acknowledge this day, and teach your people about it. Give reparations! Ask your family and friends to do the same. Tell them why it’s important. (Reminds me of conversations about attending pride as an ally  – same situation. It’s not for you unless you’ve explicitly received an invitation.)

I’m white, no I hadn’t planned on it, but I now find myself wondering what would be appropriate?

As a White woman, this is honestly what I use as a guideline. I feel like labeling yourself as an ally is the same as saying you’re woke, you can’t just declare yourself and enter spaces because of your own declaration.

White woman here. If the publicity explicitly states it’s an event for anyone who wishes to attend and support then I guess you wouldn’t be asking. I’d say unless the event is publicized in a way which makes it clear White People are invited or one of the organizers* invites you then perhaps donate some cash or other resources to the event and spend the day educating other White People about Juneteenth. (*I say one of the organizers because even if friends have invited you it may make others feel unsafe)

White person here (slightly mixed heritage for context). My response: If they were not invited by a part of the community, why would they go? I don’t see the point. For instance, I’m not Jewish, but I celebrated Passover once with friends who are Jewish when they invited me. Juneteenth is not my holiday/event as a White person as I’ve never celebrated it. Why would this person start?

I’m White and agree. Throw a little educational party for other White friends to talk about Juneteenth and learn about it.

Takeaways

It may be best to wait for an invite by a Black Person to attend a Juneteenth event. However, no one is going to turn you away. Juneteenth events are for Black People to celebrate, not an event to use as an educational lesson.

 

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