I recently learned about Juneteenth. For anyone not familiar:

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond

What is the etiquette regarding observing Juneteenth? I'd like to know whether I should wish people a Happy Juneteenth, whether I should wish it to black people only. I don't want to risk perpetuating its reputation as "a 150-year-old tradition that no one’s heard about" and would like to acknowledge it without coming off as a white savior, if that's possible.

If it's relevant, while I pass as white, I'm Latino and a first-generation American. The context would be any random person I interact with (say on my commute, or at a grocery/convenience store), similar to wishing someone "Happy Holidays," "Happy 4th" (of July), or "have a good weekend."

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    As to not coming across as odd... Wikipedia states that Juneteenth is primarily observed in local celebrations. Which makes me wonder if you have any idea as to the context of your interpersonal interactions, and could provide us with it. Where do you think you'll be meeting these 'random people', wishing them a happy Juneteenth? Do you have any information on the demographics of the people you think you'll be meeting?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 16:13
  • @Tinkeringbell edit forthcoming, “coming off odd” isn’t the right question
    – thehole
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 22:06
  • @Tinkeringbell also added the where .. I have no insight to demographics, I’d imagine it runs the gamut
    – thehole
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 22:25

2 Answers 2


I'm French, I'm white and I know nothing about Juneteenth. However, I believe I could give you some insight about which "Happy X day" to someone.

First, a successful experience:

Not so long ago, it was Ramadan month. I'm not Muslim myself but I know coworkers who are and, thus, I decided to wish them all:

Happy Ramadan to all the people observing it!

(I sent this in a writing instant message to all the company.)

It was very well received and several coworkers replied (in private or public message) to thank me.

Second, a not so successful experience:

People perceived me as a woman and, thus, I sometimes get wished a "Happy women day!". But, in France and some other countries too, this isn't really the name of the day. The day is "The International Day of struggle for women's rights" (sorry if it's not the right translation). So it's really not so much about "women" but about women struggling and gaining equal rights as man.

So, when this person, when this person (a man) wished me a "happy women day", it didn't please me. It just showed me how much they didn't know about this day (which really isn't about getting free massages, makeup or roses like some brands want you to think).

However, when someone (usually a woman), wishes me a "happy International Day of struggle for women's rights", it makes me happy. Not because they wished this to me (I don't really care), but because they seem to know what it's all about.


So, based on those experiences, I would suggest that you read more about what this day is about before wishing it to anyone. I know this only partially answers your question but I hope it still helps.

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    The Women’s Day part of your response strikes me as apt: the meaning behind both events is somber — recognizing past struggles for relief from oppression — and there’s every likelihood that the person you’re interacting with isn’t themselves actively involved in the struggle
    – thehole
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 22:03

I would recommend against randomly walking up to people and wishing them a "Happy Juneteenth".

Firstly, the events surrounding Juneteenth is a very dark time in US history and there are lasting impacts as a result. For many people on both sides of the issue, this is a sensitive and serious subject.

Secondly, this is a largely unknown commemoration, even for many of the persons who would be most affected ( descendants of US slaves ). At best you will get a confused look and inquiry as to what you are talking about. At worst, you may be accused of stereotyping/racism/mockery.

In response to your suggestion of:

whether I should wish it to black people only

You have no way of knowing if the person you approach is a descendant of a US slave. It could be someone who their family immigrated to the US 20 years ago and would likely not have been affected, you have no way of knowing simply based on appearance. And part of the lasting issues of US slavery is that blacks are still being stereotyped based on appearance, you would be feeding into this. It would be annoying and possibly offensive to them.

Like you, I am a white Latino. On many occasions I have found it annoying that people look at me and don't speak Spanish to me just because I don't look like someone who speaks Spanish. Stereotyping someone based on their appearance and wishing them a "Happy Juneteenth" would have the same or worse affect on those individuals depending on their background.

  • 1
    Both sides of the issue?
    – thehole
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 14:19
  • @thehole Yes, unfortunately there are people out there that still believe that there are inferior races and would have no issue bringing back slavery
    – sf02
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 14:32

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