More In Common Poll, Clyde Group Q&A, and IPSOS Survey Reveal Awareness Gaps on Juneteenth and How Companies Can Set the Precedent for Juneteenth Celebrations.
A year has passed since Juneteenth became a federal holiday. Now, it’s more important than ever to gain a better understanding of what this observance means to people across America, and sort out ways that U.S. companies can move forward to best support the needs of Black Americans while working to advance equity.
To get a better understanding of Juneteenth sentiments, Clyde Group commissioned a national IPSOS poll and collaborated with More in Common — an organization that works on strengthening societies against the increasing threats of polarization and social division — to gain insight from their national survey of Americans that went into a new Juneteenth report. Clyde Group also distributed a written Q&A to a selection of industry professionals to gather their intersectional perspectives on this holiday and what more needs to be done to remove the systemic holds of racism in this country, as well as how organizations can keep the priorities of the Black community front of mind as they celebrate Juneteenth.
What does Juneteenth mean to you?
More in Common asked their online research community of 271 Americans about their perceptions of Juneteenth and found that a majority of panelists expressed uncertainty about the history behind Juneteenth and what it means today, while only 11 percent knew exactly how to celebrate it. Despite this, its survey of 2,500 Americans showed an overwhelming
71 percent of respondents believe it’s important to teach the history of racism in America.
Meanwhile, our Q&A respondents were confident that Juneteenth is a time of reflection, celebration, and awareness of the progress Black Americans have made since 1865 [NOTE: Respondents’ last names have been omitted to maintain their privacy.]
“Juneteenth to me signifies that hope is still on the horizon — that those dreams deferred and denied can still be realized,” said Chantay, a healthcare professional. “Since Juneteenth became a federal holiday, it’s gratifying to be asked about its significance and educate people about the true meaning of the holiday and its original intent.
While most respondents had a solid grasp of what Juneteenth means to them, others reflected the national survey results and said they weren’t so sure. “I don’t know that people really know what to do with this holiday,” said Byron, a PR professional. “As a native Southerner, it’s always represented something less to celebrate and more to contemplate, and its elevation to a federal holiday has confused the matter even more.”
How can companies increase knowledge around Juneteenth and shape the narrative for future celebrations?
For many, communications from their employer may be the first time they learn more about what Juneteenth entails. That means there’s potential for organizations to seize this opportunity to generate more empathy and understanding in their workforce by setting a precedent for what Juneteenth celebrations should look like in the business world and beyond.
Our IPSOS poll shows that currently, only 32 percent of Americans agree that businesses are sincere in expressing the need for social change in their Juneteenth communications. Our Q&A respondents echoed this sentiment.
“There's too much lip service and not nearly enough action. Board rooms and leadership roles haven't switched up and there is a perception that hiring a DEI counselor/advisor is enough, but systemic change requires so much more than that,” said LaShon, a healthcare PR professional. “It takes looking at internal practices, hiring, testing, career promotions, and an intentional leadership team that looks introspectively to inform real change.”
It’s imperative that businesses recognize their responsibility to frame their observances in an inclusive, accurate, and unifying way — creating a space for all Americans to come together to learn and celebrate this important milestone. As Coco, a member of the More in Common team, explained during our discussion, “Juneteenth is an opportunity to learn history.”
How can companies set the precedent for Juneteenth communications?
While it’s clear there are many changes needed to realize the promise of Juneteenth, some companies may not be sure where to start. Below are a few examples from our respondents of ways the business community can provide leadership on Juneteenth.
“Racism is taught, and if we can change the mindsets and behaviors of younger generations, it may help to drive out false hatred, mistrust, and distrust,” said Chantay, a healthcare professional. “The business community could provide leadership in accomplishing such challenges by offering workshops for employees who wish to learn more about the history of slavery, racism, and the Black diaspora, and support efforts that drive unity and bipartisanship.”
Byron added that Juneteenth can serve as a time for businesses to assess whether their approach is truly engaging diverse communities in a meaningful way. “While there are several companies I counsel that are very mindful of wanting to do the right thing for the community around this holiday, there are others that believe their surface-level actions are enough — and are surprised when they backfire.”
Finally, LaShon felt strongly that the business community needs to be respectful of the various ways people may observe the holiday, which starts with giving the day off to all employees. “For many, like me, it's a solemn day to reflect on what my not-too-distant ancestors experienced, and it's important to educate staff and provide resources where people can learn more about slavery.”
However, it’s important to recognize that experiences like these are not a monolith for the entire community. “Companies should give Black employees the space to think about and determine how they want to celebrate this holiday for themselves — it’s wrong to assume that all Black employees have heard about the holiday, have celebrated it, or even know how to celebrate it,” said Calista, another team member at More in Common.
This first anniversary of Juneteenth as a federal holiday is a tangible opportunity for companies to set an example on how to better understand the unique experience of Black Americans in this country and serve as a catalyst for shaping future celebrations of Juneteenth around empathy, education, and personal action.