It's about time it became a federal holiday. Now teach the history -- and stop the GOP from erasing it.
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A lot of activists rightly point to federal holidays commemorating civil rights as token gestures — something many who block civil rights can vote for and say, “See, I’m not a hater.”
And they’re not wrong about that. In the Senate, the bill to finally make Juneteenth — a celebration of the emancipation of Black people from slavery in Texas in 1865, two months after the Confederacy surrendered and over two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation — passed by unanimous consent. In the House, all but 14 hardcore GOP Trump loyalists (and bigots) voted for the holiday. President Biden signed the bill into law yesterday.
Many of those who voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday are actively stripping Black people and others of their rights, including through radical voter restrictions. And the absolute hypocrisy of Republicans honoring Juneteenth while attacking critical race theory — and stopping the teaching of this nation’s true history — isn’t lost on any of us.
So yes, we cannot let them off the hook. But this day, and making it a federal holiday, is important precisely so we mark history and educate people in a country in which the GOP fights educating people about racism.
I’m off from my SiriusXM program today, and we’re airing a one-hour special in the 3 ET hour — part of channel-wide specials and coverage — celebrating Juneteenth and helping to tell some history. Part of my interview from Juneteenth 2020 with the legendary late Black transgender activist Monica Roberts is included. Monica died last October, an enormous loss. A Houstonian, she fought for visibility and making Juneteenth more prominent. You can listen here to her discussing Juneteenth and its history on my show last year.
Much of the hour is my interview with historian Carol Anderson on her powerful and illuminating new book “The Second,” which reveals how the formulation of the Second Amendment was tied to slavery and keeping Black people oppressed, countering the popular narrative about the Second Amendment and “individual rights.” Every move gun advocates have made since then has been motivated by fear of, and hostility toward, Black people. You can listen to the interview with Professor Anderson here.
It’s important to honor a day like Juneteenth — officially now Juneteenth National Independence Day. But it’s even more important to use it to keep enemies of equality and justice from erasing or whitewashing history, which allows them to continue the the oppression we are alarmingly seeing play out all across this country right now.