I went to our local Juneteenth celebration on Friday. I hadn't gone before, but this year it seemed important to go, so I did.
The emcee started by talking a bit about the Juneteenth organization, and how this celebration got started, and how it represented work by community members to change the community for the better, because we aren't so far from Charleston.
There was a prayer by a local (white) preacher, who started with a "blonde" joke, which he tried to pre-excuse by saying that he'd been blond as a kid. I don't know if he doesn't understand the genre (which he introduced as a "blonde" joke) as denoting blonde women, or if he's more aware and trying to sound stupid. The joke would have worked just as well as a "my buddy Joe" joke, maybe better. So that was a bad start, and it got worse; every third word in his prayer was "Lord" and not all of the placements made grammatical sense. And then he ended by praying that those of us who don't have a Christian relationship with his God should get one while there was time before we go to hellfire. So much for inclusivity, eh?
Then a teenager read the Emancipation Proclamation, which was really, really interesting, and a local officer from the campus ROTC read a document from a Union officer in Texas starting to enforce it at the end of the Civil War.
A local (white) state assemblyman came to talk a bit, and gave a well thought out speech calling the Charleston murders terrorism, which was apt, and talking about what the community broadly needs to do to be more inclusive. (He was the main speaker.)
A (white) county supervisor talked stupidly in that "white liberal I don't mean to be racist but I'm skirting the edges because I don't know how to talk about such things as racism" way.
A (white) city councilmember talked blandly.
The (white) chief of police talked about improving relations since he came (about two years ago) and then called up an African American woman to do this weird promise thing (he's promising to her that the police will do X, and so on). None of the promises was bad, but it was weird calling her up. And then she took the mic and said that as the representative of the community and the campus, she'd be keeping an eye on things. Also weird. She's a faculty member, but it's weird to claim to be the campus representative or the community representative. (She's very involved in all sorts of ways, so maybe it makes sense. But it still felt weird.) Still, the police chief was there and saying things that sounded right. (Some of my friends thought it was inappropriate that he had a gun with him though he wasn't in uniform. I didn't notice the gun.)
Then the emcee invited other local politicians up to introduce themselves and what they do in the community, which gave a couple of older white men a chance to talk too long about themselves without actually saying what they're doing or what they can help with. (I give them props for being there, at least.)
And then there was the picnic. I ate with a couple of colleagues. I'd say about 15 faculty folks were there that I knew, and some staff folks.
And that was Juneteenth up in the Northwoods.