June has traditionally been a time for businesses to show progress while benefitting from the inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons. However, in the last two years, a new holiday has succumbed to this appropriation: Juneteenth.
June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, marks the emancipation of the last enslaved persons in the United States. A union general stated in Galveston, Texas, on this day in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, that “all slaves are free in conformity with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States.” There were still 250,000 Black people enslaved in the state at the time.
Black Lives Matters
While Juneteenth has been observed every year since then — Texas was the first state to declare it a state holiday in 1979 — President Biden said it a federal holiday in June 2021. The decision was made in response to the Black Lives Matter movement’s dramatic increase in recent years, particularly in 2020, which witnessed significant mobilizations on Juneteenth.
According to Leftvoice, Corporations have leaped on the opportunity to strip the celebration of its radical features and cash in on its growing popularity in the last two years, as they do with Pride Month and other occasions to mark critical milestones for oppressed people.
Walmart, for example, was chastised for selling Juneteenth-themed ice cream and partyware, including drink koozies with the phrase “It’s the freedom for me.”
The hypocrisy of a hyper-exploitative corporation draped in the Pan-African flag’s colors did not go unnoticed. While Walmart expresses support for the Black Lives Matter movement and Juneteenth, the company has a long history of breaking unions. Its Black employees have been discriminated against and are disproportionately concentrated in the lowest-paying positions. The company was forced to issue a public apology for its Juneteenth merchandise after receiving widespread criticism on social media.