The Serendipity of Juneteenth and Father’s Day Coinciding


In psychiatry, there is much to learn and consider from these 2 celebrations.

Juneteenth and Father's Day Lessons for Psychiatry



Juneteenth, short for June 19th, has long been celebrated as emancipation day for African Americans. When I lived in Houston (1977-1989), it was a popular day for cookouts and concerts, much more so than in the North, where we later moved. Although the day was mainly celebrated by Black Americans, whites and others were welcome and did participate. Perhaps that level of joy in Houston had something to do with the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation declaring slaves legally free on January 1, 1863, was not enforced in Texas until June 19,1865, about 2 months after General Lee’s surrender.

Occasionally, Juneteenth has coincided with Father’s Day, which originated in 1910. However, extra meaning occurred last year, when Juneteenth was made a federal holiday.

Much of psychological importance ties the 2 holidays together. One aspect is emancipation, not only legally, but socially and psychologically. When slavery ended, it didn’t mean that African Americans felt free or were treated as equals. The importance of reestablishing lasting marriages and the family presence of Black fathers—long disrupted by slavery and then by economic barriers and male imprisonment—continues to be a desired part of the recovery process and is still unfolding. A timely push for that progress is evidenced by the new book by Dr Ibram X. Kendi, How to Raise an Antiracist.

Moreover, for most men regardless of their cultural background, their presumed and prescribed social role also can be traditionally constricting and problematic. That is one reason why I recently recommended the gun safety model of DIGS: Dads Into Gun Safety. After the Sandy Hook school tragedy, an organization called Moms Demand Action was formed to also address gun violence; I believe a group specifically geared to fathers was also needed.

Perhaps partially as a reflection of priming boys to be strong, macho, and in control, gun violence may have become a destructive way to address their changing roles, especially as women have become more involved outside of the home. Of course, a backlash against the freedom of women has been recently reflected in the abortion challenge to Roe v. Wade, and perhaps in the trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard as well.

If anything, this Sunday’s coincidence of Juneteenth and Father’s Day can represent and reinforce the cause of freedom, justice, and opportunity for all, especially for the children of the next generation.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

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