Although Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, the news didn’t reach the enslaved people located in Galveston, Texas until June 19, 1865. Recognized as the official end of enslaved people in the U.S., this day has been celebrated for years in the Black community as Juneteenth. But in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement that took place in 2020, wide-reaching recognition of Juneteenth surged, particularly within the tech industry.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, was the first major CEO to announce that Juneteenth would be a paid holiday for employees. Soon after, many of tech’s largest companies announced their respective plans to commemorate the day. Various other industries jumped aboard too, with Juneteenth providing an additional moment for companies to take stock of their awareness of challenges facing the Black community, lay out their commitments to taking positive action to address these challenges, audit their own Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) initiatives, and even, celebrate the day on their marketing and social media channels.
While recognition of such a historic day is necessary – and to state the obvious, long overdue – especially as Black and other non-white male communities continue to be marginalized, it’s all too easy for companies to appear opportunistic, or worse, tone-deaf. Participation here is not a one-and-done, token action. Tech companies need to ensure they take more actions to make real change in addressing racism in tech, not just on June 19, but throughout every day of every year.