White Juneteenth Scholarship Recipients in Texas Draw Outrage

Now that Juneteenth is a national holiday, moments illustrate potential pitfalls of the holiday’s wider exposure. One such moment occurred June 24 when images of a peculiar Juneteenth Sponsorship Luncheon & Scholarship Awards in Texas circulated on social media. 

Tyllah-Chanel Cornelio, an author, educator, and marketing strategist, shared an image of the scholarship recipients. Despite Juneteenth being in the name, only one of the recipients was Black. Naturally, this prompted outrage and concern, as well as some jokes. 

Cornelio followed up her initial posts about the awards ceremony with a few updates.

In one, she said that there were other scholarship recipients, and the picture she shared was only from one group. That didn’t make the original photo OK.

“Now they are saying there were multiple donors, and these are the winners’ results from one donor. That’s not clarified in this post, and I still disagree with anyone not BLACK winning JUNETEENTH scholarship funds! If enough Black students didn’t apply, group the funds together to give them to the Black students who did! Them students need as much as they can get! It’s unacceptable to award Juneteenth scholarship funds to anyone who is not BLACK, period.” Cornelio wrote. 

The personal injury attorney who sponsored the scholarships, J. Chad Parker, wrote in a post on Facebook that he only provided the funds for the scholarships and had no input on who was selected to receive the awards.

“I give to many causes,” the Tyler, Texas-based attorney wrote. “I never ask to control where it goes. I did that this year. People seem to think I did something other than donate. I’m not on the Juneteenth Committee and don’t know anyone getting them. I only thought I should support the cause. I was asked to get a float last year, and I did. Not my idea. I’m sorry people are disappointed. I am, too.” Parker wrote.

A post depicting the scholarship winners from someone who claims to be one of the Tyler, TX lawyer’s employees, Bernard Ross, appears to have been deleted from Facebook, but the screenshots have already circulated and generated outrage on other social media sites, like Twitter/X. Others have taken the episode as a reason to explain how they believe that the federal government making Juneteenth a holiday did not accomplish what Black people were asking for.

In 2020, Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee introduced a resolution to recognize Juneteenth’s historical significance. “There needs to be a reckoning, an effort to unify. One thing about national holidays is they help educate people about what the story is,” Jackson Lee told Time.

“Juneteenth legislation is a call for freedom, but it also reinforces the history of African Americans,” she added. “We’ve fought for this country. We’ve made great strides, but we’re still the victims of sharp disparities. Our neighborhoods reflect that. We’ve been denied the same opportunities for housing and access to healthcare, and in 2020, [during] COVID-19, all of the glaring disparities are shown. Because of that, I think this is a time that we may find people who are desirous of understanding the history not necessarily only of African Americans, but the history of America.”

Although Juneteenth is now a national holiday and the story of what Juneteenth means to Black people is now spread far and wide, that unfortunately does not cancel out the audacity of whiteness.

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