Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Amber Ruffin
Amber Ruffin
Screenshot: Late Night With Seth Meyers

Happy Juneteenth, everybody! Enjoy the official end of slavery, assess the still-woeful state of American race relations while celebrating Black excellence, and stare wistfully at your backyard as you remember a time when literally everyone cool you know would be there, sharing in the holiday’s celebratory/determined mood and actually breathing the same oxygen. Yes, it’s a pandemic Juneteenth, which means that Black Americans (and their select non-Black friends who’ve proven they actually get it and won’t go around asking a lot of exhaustingly well-meaning questions) will be eschewing the communal holiday explosion of defiant joy in favor of, as Amber Ruffin noted on Thursday’s Late Night With Seth Meyers, watching “Alicia Keys and John Legend battle it out on Verzuz.”

Still, as the ever-helpful Late Night writer and breakout sunbeam admitted, there are some Late Night viewers (cough—white ones—cough) who might only being hearing about this landmark holiday that’s only been existence for over 150 years. And Amber is here to solve problems, people. So, pulling out a big, friendly red salad bowl supposedly full of actual (white) viewers’ questions about Juneteenth, Ruffin set to work setting the record straight. (She did not address Donald Trump’s recent boast that people only now know about Juneteenth because of him, which is sort of a self-burn when you think about it, as well as being legitimate, medical proof of delusional megalomania. But there’s only so much room in a bowl.)

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Pulling out one missive, Ruffin first explained why Juneteenth is celebrated for June 19, 1985, when the Emancipation Proclamation had freed all American slaves on January 1, 1863. For one thing—cookouts in January suck. For another, more historically accurate thing, Ruffin told (white) viewers about how Texas slave owners decided that freedom and human dignity shouldn’t mess with them, holding out by keeping people in bondage until finally caving in at gunpoint on some two full years later. “And then they were all arrested for brazenly disobeying the law!,” beamed Ruffin, before waving her hands and laughing, “Just kidding—no slave owners have ever been punished.”

From there, Ruffin addressed if white people can celebrate Juneteenth. (Sure, as long as it’s not to complain about your lost slaves. Also, no costumes.) She did her level best to assure that, since some places are finally making this monumental American milestone an official holiday, the same “long weekend” rules do apply on Monday, and hoped Juneteenth wouldn’t become commercialized with auto sales and the like. (Amber Ruffin would also like a new car, please. Preferably at a steep discount.) Cold-reading the question, “Does the holiday, Juneteenth make up for all the—,” caused Ruffin to just jam that one right back to the bottom of the bowl. “The answer is ‘no,’ no matter what the rest of it was.” After all, as Ruffin explained, this is a time for celebration, and to “hire Black people, defund the police, call out white supremacy, fight the power, be anti-racist, and, most importantly, stop asking Black people how you can fight systemic racism.”

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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