President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth bill nearly a year ago, making June 19 a new federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S. He did so at the urging of long-time Congressman Rep. James Clyburn, who has been the House majority whip since 2019. At the time, many in Black America saw the move as pure symbolism.
Now, nearly 12 months later, many are still outraged that other issues concerning Black people — reparations, police reform and voting rights — have not been pushed through at the speed of the Juneteenth bill.
On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth National Independence Day became the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law in 1983 by then-President Ronald Reagan, CNBC reported.
Juneteenth National Independence Day is the 12th legal public holiday marking June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers led by Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in the coastal city of Galveston, Texas, to deliver General Order No. 3, officially ending slavery in the state.
Legislation to make Juneteenth a holiday passed unanimously in the Senate and the House passed it in a 415-14 vote. The only votes against the bill came from Republicans.
Black America is still speaking out about the bill’s empty symbolism.
“I just had to rewind the tape to last year & I have a question: Who demanded & asked for this?” tweeted Cathi Young.
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“The Biden Administration will forever hold the record of being the leading distributor of symbolic gestures to the black community no wonder he nominated Merrick Garland for attorney general because they both are masters of incompetence,” tweeted Percy Dondle.
“This is kuhn jab. No one begged or even asked for Juneteenth to be a federal holiday. Democrats were only trying to score a political win by giving Black Americans symbolism rather than tangibles,” tweeted UNAVA_46.
As with other federal holidays, major retailers have started trying to cash in on Juneteenth — a move that recently backfired for retail giant Walmart, who on May 24, 2022, pulled a Juneteenth ice cream product offering just one day after introducing it.
The company even apologized for selling its own Juneteenth ice cream, “Celebration Edition: Juneteenth Ice Cream” under its “Great Value” label.
“I saw the other day that Walmart is selling #juneteenth ice cream. For all the negroes who love symbolism and validation from massa I’m sure you’re excited. For about $4 you negroes can get a taste of freedom” tweeted ay5ive92.
The red velvet-flavored ice cream sparked outrage from many people on social media.
“Someone’s idea of progress. Or, if DEI was Wal-Mart ice cream. .. .. .. The Juneteenth one is Red Velvet,” tweeted Dr. CBS.
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“Share and celebrate African-American culture, emancipation, and enduring hope,” read the label on Walmart’s Juneteenth ice cream.
“Juneteenth holiday marks a celebration of freedom and independence,” a Walmart spokesperson said in a statement. “However, we received feedback that a few items caused concern for some of our customers, and we sincerely apologize. We are reviewing our assortment and will remove items as appropriate.”
Others on Twitter are encouraging shoppers to buy Black-owned Creamalicious Ice Cream from Target, CNN reported.
Photo: In this June 17, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden hands a pen to Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., after signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. From left, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif, Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., Opal Lee, Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., obscured, Vice President Kamala Harris, House Majority Whip James Clyburn of S.C., Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, obscured, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)