Dear President Trump,
Yesterday morning the fact that it was Juneteenth slipped past me until I was cutting and pasting my letter to you into my running “Letters to Trump” document. I’d read an article late last week about foods associated with Juneteenth but the day almost got by me. Did it get by you? I’m guessing it did since it seems unlikely you would care much about it.
Hmm. I was wrong. I just looked up the year and at the top of the search page was a statement from you about Juneteenth. Before getting too excited, though, I think how you approached it is worth parsing. It looks like you borrowed heavily from the Wikipedia entry; your phrasing “….news traveled slowly from Washington, D.C., to the Southern states” is almost verbatim to how it’s described by Wikipedia. Both the Wikipedia entry and your statement imply slavery wasn’t abolished in Texas January 1, 1863 but two plus years later on Juneteenth, 1865, which sets up an odd contradiction. Either it wasn’t supposed to end in Texas in 1863 or it was supposed to but the news was somehow not conveyed to (some) people in Texas for two and a half years. I don’t know which it is, but my bet is slavery in Texas was supposed to end on January 1, 1863. Texas was not one of the exempted border states and it had declared itself to be a Confederate state in 1861 and therefore should have been under the original Emancipation Proclamation. It would have been highly convenient and lucrative for Texas slaveholders to not tell their slaves about it. I don’t think the news traveled slowly; it was suppressed and withheld from the people who most needed to know. This was really a travesty and Juneteenth should be a day of mourning and reckoning. Were slaves in Texas given reparations for the 2.5 years of additional forced labor they provided the economy of Texas? That’s saying nothing of the hundreds of years of forced labor provided the whole country, but that 2.5-year gap almost certainly made Texas products cheaper and more plentiful than any other Southern state could produce at the time.
This is the stuff we need to be talking about. Not pat non-statements that get you political chits. May you step up and start grappling with the real issues we face on race, the legacies of slavery, poverty, and the use and abuse of vital information.
May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May your life unfold and intersect justly.
(It was later explained to me that the Emancipation Proclamation would not have been recognized by the Confederate states until after the war was over so it was really just two months of lag time between the end of the war in April 1865 and June 1865 in Texas not 2.5 years as stated above.)