This Juneteenth, let’s demand true Black freedom.

By Bree Carlson and Saqib Bhatti, ACRE Co-Executive Directors

Today, we will be bombarded with social media posts, advertisements, and other pronouncements from corporations wishing us a happy Juneteenth.

Juneteenth is a celebration of Black freedom in the United States. Juneteenth celebrations date back to 1866, but was only recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, in the wake of the 2020 uprisings. So what exactly are the corporations behind the onslaught of Juneteenth advertisements doing for Black culture and Black people?

Let’s take a closer look at some corporate ads for Juneteenth, how these same corporations actually treat Black people, and demands we’re making that truly support Black freedom in the 21st century.

Uber and Lyft voice support for Juneteenth while app workers of color struggle for protections

Rideshare corporations like Uber and Lyft were among the hundreds to declare Juneteenth a paid holiday back in 2020. In fact, that same year Uber asserted that they “stand with the Black community,” various civil rights groups found that “Uber Actively Hurts Black People.” But this virtue signaling did nothing to change the day-to-day realities for their Black app workers who create billions in revenue for these corporations while often earning less than a living wage.

Uber issued a statement commemorating Juneteenth and their mission to “fight racism and inequality.”

Lyft issued a statement calling Juneteenth a “day to reflect.”.

In fact, Uber’s employment practices have been compared to indentured servitude and serfdom, the antithesis of the freedom that Juneteenth is supposed to celebrate.

Recently released research highlights that drivers, primarily those of color, are facing serious worker safety issues on the job, and that companies like Lyft and Uber are failing to protect them. 31 app workers were murdered on the job last year, most of whom were workers of color.

Lyft, Uber and other app corporations rely on an exploitative business model that leaves workers without critical protections.

This Juneteenth, we’re calling for app worker protections that provide real accountability, transparency, fair wages and deactivation protections.

Surveillance tech company SoundThinking wishes everyone a happy Juneteenth, while sending armed police into Black communities

ShotSpotter, the tech surveillance corporation, which recently rebranded as SoundThinking, publicly supported Juneteenth last year.

Surveillance technology company, SoundThinking (formerly ShotSpotter) wishes everyone a happy Juneteenth.

SoundThinking is a surveillance technology that records sounds in predominantly Black neighborhoods to report to the police. Once the technology picks up a sound that it registers as a gunshot, it sends armed police to the location of the sound. A study by the MacArthur Justice Center at the Northwestern Law School found that ShotSpotter has a false alarm rate of 89%. In 2021, a ShotSpotter alert sent police to a neighborhood in Chicago, resulting in the police murder of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. In another instance, a false ShotSpotter alert resulted in an innocent 65-year-old Black man being locked up in jail for nearly a year.

SoundThinking’s unsound business model is premised on the criminalization of Black and brown communities. Helping put Black people behind bars is hardly a celebration of freedom.

Instead of investing in companies creating products like surveillance and military-grade equipment that target Black people for profit, we must invest in the things that actually create safety, like violence interruption and de-escalation programs that are led by communities themselves. This Juneteenth, we’re calling on cities like Chicago, Detroit and Durham to end their ShotSpotter contracts and invest in community-led public safety solutions.

JP Morgan & Wells Fargo celebrate Juneteenth while profiting at the expense of Black people

WellsFargo wishes families a happy Juneteenth.

Chase Bank publishes a Juneteenth post.

JPMorgan Chase, currently the biggest bank in the US, accepted thousands of enslaved people as collateral for loans and owned human chattel during the Antebellum period. That means that when plantation owners defaulted on loan payments, the bank took ownership of these enslaved people as payment. WellsFargo’s predecessors also accepted enslaved people as collateral and went on to own them as human capital.

Banks like Chase and Wells Fargo played a key role in denying Black families the opportunity to build wealth and confined them into segregated neighborhoods through redlining. Once they did start lending in Black neighborhoods, we saw them start targeting Black and Latine families with predatory subprime mortgages, a process known as “reverse redlining”, which resulted in a massive loss of Black and Latine wealth.

More recently, Wells Fargo has been sued for discriminating against Black borrowers and other borrowers of color, and lowballing Black homeowners during appraisals. Both JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have also financed private prison companies, which means they profited from locking Black people in cages.

This Juneteenth, we’re demanding that regulators enforce the rules that stop banks from growing at the cost of Black communities.

Looking towards Black freedom in the 21st Century

Supporting Black freedom means fighting for a world where Black people have access to safe and sustainable jobs, strong public services, and free and fair banking. A world where Black communities enjoy worker protections, true public safety, and economic justice.

While we celebrate the emancipation of Black people from slavery in the 19th century, we must continue the fight for freedom for Black people in the 21st century.

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ACRE: Action Center on Race and the Economy

The Action Center on Race & the Economy (ACRE) is a campaign hub for organizations working at the intersection of racial justice and Wall Street accountability.