Juneteenth – Did We Do the Right Thing For The Wrong Reason?
I did a google search for a word that means "doing the right thing for the wrong reason." I couldn't find anything that really fits this situation. So it may take a few more words to say what I'm trying to say but this is my opinion...feel to disagree.
It looks like we are about to get another National Holiday. At present we have 10 and they are:
New Year’s Day
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
President’s Day (Washington's Birthday)
Columbus Day (Indigenous People's Day?)
Soon to be added to the list is Juneteenth, National Independence Day.
Before we go any further, let's review some key dates in America's fight to end slavery which is what Juneteenth is all about..
The Civil War started on April 12, 1861
President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia On April 16, 1862,
President Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, stating that if the rebels did not end the fighting with 100 days and rejoin the Union, all slaves in the rebellious states would be free.
President Lincoln signed the formal Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
On January 31, 1865, the 13th amendment abolishing slavery in the United States passed Congress.
Three months later on April 9, 1865, the Civil War came to an end.
The 13th amendment abolishing slavery was ratified on December 6, 1865.
All of these are important dates in the national struggle to bring America's most horrific chapter to an end. Any of these would have made a fitting national marker for the great accomplishment of freeing the slaves and preserving the nation. But there is more.
Jump ahead 99 years to June 2, 1964, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
A year later, on August 6, 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.
These are two more deeply significant and easily understood victories on the path to forming the more perfect union of our national promise.
If the country was going to add a national holiday to commemorate the end of slavery, why wouldn't any of those dates, with national implications have been chosen instead of the day marking an update for a uniformed Texas? And why not before now?
Where does Juneteenth fit into the bloody fight and monumental accomplishments to right the wrongs of slavery?
According to the summation in the Washington Post, "On June 19, 1865, Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger stepped onto a balcony in Galveston, Tex. — two months after the Civil War had ended — and announced that more than 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were free. President Abraham Lincoln had freed them two and a half years earlier in his Emancipation Proclamation, but since Texas never fell to Union troops in battle, they’d remained in bondage. The newly emancipated responded with cries of joy and prayers of gratitude — a celebration that became known as Juneteenth."
SO, not to downplay the significance of that day for the people of the time, but does passing along the word of victory to Texas, albeit two months late, really rise to the level of the national significance of any of these other dates and actions in creating a NATIONAL holiday that a majority of Americans know little or nothing about? I guess that is a matter of opinion - but the fact is that Juneteenth wasn't the final action of freeing the slaves. Remember the 13th Amendment banning slavery was ratified on Dec. 6, 1865 - six months after June 19th, and even at that time slaves were waiting to be freed in Delaware, Kentucky, and New Jersey.
Where slavery was still legal after Juneteenth? " Delaware and Kentucky rejected all efforts by the Union to end slavery, and these two border states firmly rejected the 13th Amendment. As a result, slavery remained perfectly legal in both states for another six months after Juneteenth, until the secretary of state certified that the 13th Amendment had been ratified by enough states to become law throughout the U.S."
Delaware (Joe Biden's home state by the way) didn't ratify the 13th Amendment until 1901 while Kentucky resisted the 13th Amendment until 1976!
And so Juneteenth, "while a momentous celebration of freedom, must also be remembered as being only one in a long, agonizing series of steps by which our nation’s enslaved managed to win or, in some cases, were granted emancipation from slavery."
Slavery was abhorrent and a national day in America marking its end is a good idea and long overdue. But is it doing the right thing... for the wrong reason?
I'm sorry to say it, but it feels random, forced, and opportunistic in its selection.
USA Today reported on Congress's whirlwind effort to rush through a bill making Juneteenth our next national holiday. The Senate voted unanimously, the House voted 415 to 14 in the last two days.
The WaPo writes "Last summer, amid the racial-justice protests following the murder of George Floyd, millions of White Americans became aware of Juneteenth for the first time. Some companies announced they would give employees the day off on Juneteenth, and momentum grew to make it a national holiday. "
And how did THIS get printed in the New York Times yesterday? But it did.
"More than 60 percent of Americans know “nothing at all” or only “a little bit” about Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States, according to a new Gallup survey....the survey ... found that nearly half supported teaching the history of Juneteenth in public schools. There was less support — 35 percent — for making June 19 a federal holiday, but only a quarter of respondents said they were opposed to the idea.". 60% don't know about it and only 35% support making it a holiday. Are those the kind of numbers that should drive the selection of a national holiday? I say no.
I'm sorry, but to be honest, it feels like the opportunistic equivalent of somebody grabbing the sneakers in the broken window of a storefront during a mostly peaceful protest. It's there for the taking so why not? Here's why. Because if done thoughtfully, with inspiring black leadership, nonpartisan inclusion and maybe even a national history review for the public, a national "end of slavery day" it COULD help us heal and promote unity. I doubt that this will do that. ( FYI - Not to put history over profit, but I read that a national holiday costs the country around 600-million dollars in federal productivity)
The topic of race today is so touchy it's surprising that 14 Republicans had the nerve to vote no. (or me to even write about it!!) One of those no votes was cast by Montana Representative Matt Rosendale who said, "Let’s call an ace an ace. This is an effort by the Left to create a day out of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make Critical Race Theory the reigning ideology of our country. Since I believe in treating everyone equally, regardless of race, and that we should be focused on what unites us rather than our differences, I will vote no.”
Another "No" vote came from Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky who basically said that July 4th is America's Independence Day but Senate Bill 475 calls for the new holiday to be called "Juneteenth National Independence Day", which he says is confusing....and it is. Rep. Massie said, "Why can't we name this 'emancipation day' and come together as Americans and celebrate that day together as Americans?"
We should have a national day of remembrance. BUT we should do it for the right reasons. We shouldn't rush one through in this fashion under the fear and exaggerated influence of "wokeness", CRT, Cancel Culture, and BLM threatening circumstances -- without most Americans even understanding the significance of the day. White guilt capitulation strikes again?
YES, we should have a day, but we should do it the right way so we all can unite around it and have it mark our nation's progress instead of being just another example of opportunists "not letting a crises go to waste."
You see it differently? Please share your thoughts. Thanks.