The embrace of the American companies of Juneteenth holiday rings hollowed out for many

As a consultant for diversity, Dee Marshall instructs Wall Street banks on how to become more hospitable jobs for people of color. She thinks she would be excited when her customers call for help with plans to celebrate Juneteenth.

Not so much, it turns out.

“Blacks are not enthusiastic about this,” said Marshall, general manager of the Diverse & Engaged advisory group.

After the murder by police of George Floyd last year sparked mass protests and ignited racial esteem in the United States, corporate America embraced Juneteenth as a way to honor black Americans and demonstrate their commitment to the jobs of diverse and inclusive work.

A word for portmanteau from June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when Union Army General Gordon Granger marched on Galveston, Texas to free the last black American slaves – months after the surrender of the Confederates in the Civil War and more than two years later President Abraham Lincoln had formally declared an end to slavery.

While some black Americans appreciate America’s late recognition of Juneteenth, making it a paid vacation, others, like Marshall, complain that it feels like a vacant gesture – especially when many companies haven’t even respected the promises of diversity made at the time of Floyd’s protests.

People carry a Juneteenth sign at a protest in Brooklyn, New York on June 19, 2020 © John Minchillo / AP

“What is more significant for the population than this is meant to honor? I don’t think they are super excited that a Juneteenth event will happen. They will be excited when there is a real change happening in the organization,” Marshall said. .

However, Juneteenth is now a cornerstone of the racial justice activities of several companies, including Lyft, Colgate and BP, among others, announcing their party’s adoption in the social and diversity impact reports.

About 9 percent of companies will take Juneteenth this year, according to a survey by employer consulting firm Mercer, compared to 55 percent for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Thursday President Joe Biden he signed an invoice establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, the 11th in the nation.

The campaign to establish the MLK day began shortly after the assassination of the head of civil rights in 1968 and finally signed into law in 1983.

The debate over the federal vacation status for Juneteenth took place when the United States struggled with how to remember its history of institutionalized racism. Republicans in 20 states have introduced legislation to limit the use of critical theory of race in public schools, an academic strategy used to examine institutions from a racial perspective. Conservatives fear that the discussion about the U.S. legacy of discriminatory policies could fuel anti-American sentiments.

“Even today, while conservatives seek to erase history with their attacks on critical theory of race and understand the impacts of systemic racism, we are here to recognize the truth,” said Ed Markey, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts. wrote on Twitter earlier this week. “We will make #Juneteenth a federal party.”

Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African and African American studies at Duke University, observed that while black Americans across the southern and southwestern states mark the holiday with family reunions, cooking and parties. of blockchain, “never had a national follow-up” before Floyd’s assassination in late May 2020.

People in Leesburg, Virginia protest against teaching critical theory of race in schools © Andrew Caballero / AFP via Getty Images

“For many corporations, it was a poorly applied fruit,” Neal said about the rise of Juneteenth companies. The date came last year amid protests by Black Lives Matter and as many corporations were fighting to publicly confront racism for the first time.

“If Juneteenth was in October, that wouldn’t have happened,” Marshall said.

Many of the companies that were among the first to designate Juneteenth a company holiday by providing a day off or offering pay for working hours, including Nike, Square and Mastercard, said they had planned to do the same this year.

But overall, the commemorations are noticeably quieter. General Motors, which last year held a work stoppage for nine minutes – the length of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck – to honor Floyd in June last year, he said his plans for this year include “volunteerism and community engagement.”

Opponents of the party have cited the financial cost of the work as missing. Ron Johnson, a Republican senator from Wisconsin who blocked Juneteenth legislation last year had estimated the cost at $ 600ma a year for federal employees alone. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management said most federal employees will take the new June holiday on Friday, which June 19 will fall on Saturday.

Dakasha Winton, a black executive who is the government’s chief relations officer for Tennessee’s BlueCross insurance company BlueShield, said the educational focus of several Juneteenth corporate parties made them worthy.

“Even if it’s the first time you’ve done something, at least you’re taking steps to do something, and that’s the key,” Winton said.

The working group for diversity of New York’s public relations group, RF Binder, has voted to add Juneteenth to its list of paid vacations and remove another honor from 15th-century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus for failing. space.

“To give up Columbus Day for Juneteenth, there is something very significant,” said Amy Binder, the chief executive. “Columbus Day celebrates the western world invading a country and taking it away from the Native Americans, and maybe it’s not such a good concept.”

For Marshall, Juneteenth’s recognition is only significant for black employees when they are part of a plan for diversity, equity and inclusion.

“This day doesn’t just celebrate the past,” Biden said shortly before signing the party into law. “Call to action today.”

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