Why Juneteenth Should Be a Federal Holiday.
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
Slavery was put to an end when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and it went into effect in 1862. Right? Well not exactly. Here again I admit my ignorance in that I only recently learned that slavery remained in effect in many Confederate states, such as Texas, for another two and half years. And, that the importance of June 19, 1865, is that 1,800 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas and took control of the state to proclaim all enslaved people were freed. “Juneteenth” then is the real Emancipation Day.
Then about a hundred years later, President Kennedy appeared on national television to address the issue of civil rights. “One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free. We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is a land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes? Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.”
And then President Obama made Juneteenth a National Day of Observance in 2014.
OK, now that I’ve addressed some of my lack of knowledge about American History, what are some ways for me to look at Juneteenth this week, and its importance? A starting point it to use Juneteenth as a day to acknowledge that the consequences of slavery are at the very heart of the narrative of who we are as a country. Juneteenth is an opportunity to shine a light on the evil of slavery, and how it was been defended and tolerated for so long. And how the bias, stereotypes, and the systemic racism have gone unnoticed by me and much of my white community. A look backwards at Juneteenth this week is a way to interrogate my daily performance and inform my way forward.
I graduated from nearly all-white Los Alamitos High School in Orange County nearly 50 years ago. A substantial percentage of us went on to careers as educators and in the nonprofit sector. I think this was about a belief in the power of the human spirit to imagine something and work to create it. We all grew up with Disneyland as our neighbor, and Walt Disney had this to say: "There's really no secret to our approach. We keep moving forward – opening up new doors and doing new things – because we're curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We're always exploring and experimenting. We call it Imagineering – the blending of creativity and imagination with technical know-how." So as the nation considers Juneteenth this week, let us bring both imaginative and practical ways to build strength in numbers, a national solidarity, around anti-racism today.
Every strategic plan I've ever written started with the vision statement, and everything else flowed from there. Imagining a new racial vision is the tool for recreating and remodeling the mission. Reframing America’s days of observation is a critical way to change the narrative. I vote for forgetting Christopher Columbus, murderer of the native Americans, and instead honor a day when a moral wrong was rectified.