US companies’ embrace of Juneteenth holiday rings hollow for many

As a diversity consultant, Dee Marshall advises Wall Street banks on how to become more hospitable workplaces for coloreds. You would think she would be excited if her clients asked for help with the plans to celebrate Juneteenth.

Not so much, it seems.

“Black people are not excited about this,” says Marshall, CEO of the consulting group Diverse & Engaged.

After the murder by the police of George Floyd last year resulted in massive protests and sparked a racial rift in the US, embracing American America Juneteenth as a way to honor black Americans and show their commitment to diverse and inclusive workplaces.

A Portmanteau word dated June 19 Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when Union Army General Gordon Granger marched in Galveston, Texas to free the last addicted black Americans – months after the Confederate surrender in the Civil War and more than two years later President Abraham Lincoln formally declared an end to slavery.

While some black Americans appreciate Juneteenth’s late American recognition in the American business world by making it a paid vacation, others, like Marshall, complain that it feels like an empty gesture – especially if many companies have not yet kept the diversity promises. has not been made at the height of the Floyd protests. .

People wear a Juneteenth sign during a rally in Brooklyn, New York on June 19, 2020 © John Minchillo / AP

“What is more meaningful to the population that it is meant to honor? I do not think they are going to be very excited that a June tenth event is taking place. “They will be excited when there is a real change in the organization,” Marshall said.

Nevertheless, Juneteenth is now a cornerstone of many companies’ efforts for racial justice, with Lyft, Colgate and BP, among others, proposing their acceptance of the holiday in social reports and diversity reports.

About 9 percent of businesses will release Juneteenth this year, according to a survey by employers’ consulting firm Mercer, compared to 55 percent for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Thursday, President Joe Biden sign an account the establishment of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, the 11th of the country.

The campaign to establish MLK Day began shortly after the assassination of the civil rights leader in 1968 and finally signed in 1983.

The debate over the federal holiday status for Juneteenth took place while the US struggled on how to remember its history of institutionalized racism. Republicans in 20 states have enacted legislation to restrict the use of critical race theory in public schools, an academic strategy used to examine institutions from a racial perspective. Conservatives fear that discussing the US legacy of discriminatory policies could fuel anti-American sentiment.

“Even today, while conservatives are trying to erase history with their attacks on critical racial theory and understand the consequences of systemic racism, we stand here to acknowledge the truth,” Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey said earlier. wrote on Twitter this week. “We’ve making #Juneteenth a federal holiday.”

Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African and African American studies at Duke University, noted that although black Americans in the southern and southwestern states mark the holidays with family reunions, cooking and block parties, it has never had a national following. did not ‘Floyd’s murder end May 2020.

People in Leesburg, Virginia, challenge teaching critical racial theory in schools © Andrew Caballero / AFP via Getty Images

“For many companies, it was fruit that hung little,” Neal said of raising Juneteenth. The date came last year during the big protest marches by Black Lives Matter, and just as many companies tried for the first time to address racism in public.

“If Juneteenth had been in October, it would not have happened,” Marshall said.

Several of the businesses that were among the first to designate Juneteenth an operating holiday by offering a Friday or overtime payment, including Nike, Square and Mastercard, said they plan to do so this year as well.

But overall, the anniversaries are noticeably more muted. General Motors, who went on strike for nine minutes last year – the duration of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s to kneel Floyd’s neck – to honor Floyd at Juneteenth last year, said his plans this year are ‘volunteer work and community involvement ‘.

Opponents of the holiday cite the financial cost of missed work. Ron Johnson, a Republican senator from Wisconsin who blocked The 19th legislation last year estimated federal employees at only $ 600 million a year. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management said most federal employees will take down the new Juneteenth holiday on Friday, as June 19 will fall on Saturday.

Dakasha Winton, a black executive who heads government relations at Tennessee Insurer BlueCross BlueShield, said the educational focus of numerous corporate Junette celebrations makes them worthwhile.

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

The diversity working group at the radio officer, RF Binder, in New York, voted to add Juneteenth to the list of paid holidays and to eliminate another honorable 15th-century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus to make room for it.

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

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

“This day does not just celebrate the past,” Biden said shortly before signing the holiday. “It calls for action today.”

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