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Why My Family Doesn't Celebrate Juneteenth
Commemorating the official end of slavery, the day of (and let's face it, also the days surrounding) June 19th, is celebrated by millions. Across the country, parties are held, parades organized. The likes of Lincoln, Douglass, Tubman are honored, adored. Some even get the day off from work to observe fondly the liberation of their ancestors and the opportunities that deliverance afforded them.
But not me. Not my family. Unlike those descendants of former slaves, whose lives have improved since 1864, the lives of my kin, the descendants of former slave owners, have only gotten harder. Though objectively still "better off" than most African Americans, my people have been on the downward slope of the tipping of that balance for generations, making our lives relatively worse.
What people fail to calculate these 159 years since that fateful day are the 200+ years that preceded them. My ancestors never needed to bother with tending their own property or doing their own chores. They didn't spend their evenings cooking dinners and washing dishes. Their weekends weren't wasted with laundry and vacuuming and grocery shopping and Little League games. My great-great-great grandmother read poetry and hosted cotillions. My great-great-great grandfather drank whiskey and whipped people.
Some say this way of life was wrong, even evil. But then why would hundreds of thousands of men who, despite not being slave owners themselves, lay down their lives so that another might not have to paint his own barn? To mow their own lawn? True heroes, all.
No, for us, these victims of the not-so-great emancipation, these heirs of extra burden, these past sixteen decades have been no bed of roses. Our roses still have thorns, and they hurt. Our children, unlike those figurative children my ancestors used to own, talk back. Its no picnic, and if it was, we'd have to pack our own tuna salad.
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