In the world of boneheaded marketing ploys, this has to rank as one of the boneheadedest.
Kendall Jenner and that dumb Pepsi ad? Move over.
Fliers from Second Amendment Sports, a local gun shop and shooting range, started showing up in mailboxes late last week.
I got one on Saturday.
I’m just going to describe it verbatim.
The front has large, bold lettering announcing “Juneteenth.”
Above it is a drawing of an, apparently, African-American man with his arms raised overhead breaking a chain.
A photo of a white man’s face has been imposed onto the drawing.
To the side, the flier states, “Juneteenth, Dads & Grads Sale June 15th & 17th.”
On the back (between clip art of shackled wrists breaking chains) it says:
“Celebrate Juneteenth Dads & Grads.”
“Emancipate yourselves from the oppression of the man.”
“From your chores, from your school — Buy a gun!”
“Take that boot off your neck and enjoy some great deals!”
There’s an asterisk on the flier that says for more information go to www.2ndamendmentsports.com.
So I did.
I found an explainer, sort of, about Juneteenth saying it is recognized mostly by black Americans and commemorates the end of the Civil War and the “final Southern state of Texas announcing the emancipation of slaves.” (I would argue with that interpretation, which I’ll get to.)
It goes on to say that Second Amendment Sports is celebrating the date to remind people that all races at one time in history were enslaved and that freedom comes at a cost.
“Buy a firearm and some ammunition and take your power back from a government that would prefer you to be a slave again!” says the explainer.
Then there’s a convoluted line about states' rights and keeping the Union together, presumably about the Civil War.
“Remember Juneteenth,” it ends. “Know that it has relevance to all men.”
So, that cleared up nothing about this ill-conceived ad campaign.
Just as a start, I wondered if Second Amendment had used Juneteenth as a “sale-a-bration” marketing concept before?
What was the response? What’s the response now?
Who's face is that photoshopped onto the drawing?
And why? Just, why?
I did eventually get an email from Second Amendment Sports owner Matt Janes, who defended the fliers as opening a dialogue about the fragility of freedom for everyone.
He said this is the second year Second Amendment Sports has used the Juneteenth ad campaign and reaction has been "mixed."
"Some people choose to be offended," Janes wrote. "They do not feel it is our place to bring up U.S. history when it pertains to certain subjects. Like it is taboo or exclusive to only some. Others totally understand the meaning behind our advertisement. Others are 'Hunh? What's Juneteenth?'"
As to the face imposed on the drawing: "It is immaterial and largely the point of the image. It could be an ancestor, you, me, our children...that is the importance."
If nothing else, he wrote, he hopes the flier gets people talking.
That, it did.
“The entire thing is disrespectful,” said Jason Phillips. “And to turn it (Juneteenth) into a political message to fan up emotion, which leads directly to more gun sales for them, is sickening.”
Reactions on Facebook and elsewhere were similar, a mixture of outrage and derision.
I'm all for standing firm on civil liberties and slapping back government overreach. But I don't think coopting Juneteenth is the way to go.
To me, the flier and tortured explainer are boorish and just plain weird.
I mean, why not hawk high-caliber rifles on Holocaust Remembrance Day as "yellow badge repellant?"
I’m not going to argue whether the fliers are also racist.
Anyone who doesn’t find them racially offensive will get defensive and claim the other side is overly sensitive.
That’s a spin cycle that never ends.
Instead, hey, what exactly is Juneteenth?
I will admit that I didn't know until I covered the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, an all black rodeo, which happened to be touring in Bakersfield on Juneteenth some years back.
To me, Juneteenth is bittersweet in a lot of ways.
It recognizes the end of slavery, yes.
But it came to 250,000 slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865, two months after the official end of the Civil War.
And 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln in January 1863.
And the state of Texas certainly did not announce it, as implied by Second Amendment Sports' explainer.
Union Gen. Gordon Granger landed in Galveston with 2,000 troops to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.
Granger made it his first order of business to stand on a balcony and read aloud:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”
That was June 19, 1865.
Today, Juneteenth is typically marked with gatherings of family and friends, food, remembrances and prayer.
“It’s a recognition,” a friend told me.
That sounds right. A recognition. Not a door buster.