Juneteenth: Long overdue

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The skillful lawyers and advocates building our case for American independence enumerated the ways in which our rights as citizens in a true democracy, and in fact our fundamental humanity, were denied by British rule, thus justifying our claim to independence. Impossible for these statesmen to confront, though, was the simultaneous, inherent immorality of American chattel slavery, the ownership of black humans by whites, stretching back to Jamestown and earlier.

Juneteenth, celebrated this Sunday, is our newest federal holiday, recognized for the first time on Monday, June 20. It commemorates a single historical event, the proclamation freeing slaves in Texas in 1865, and more broadly the trajectory of slavery and emancipation in America. Making room for Juneteenth in our holiday orthodoxy is long overdue, and a good thing, especially if it forces us to extend the boundaries of our understanding of our true American history. It would be a terrible loss, though, should Juneteenth become simply additive, a supplement to annual Independence Day barbecues and re-enactments, which follow two weeks later.

Two years ago, Jelani Cobb wrote about the paradox of slavery and emancipation in the New Yorker: “Juneteenth exists as a counterpoint to the Fourth of July; the latter heralds the arrival of American ideals, the former stresses just how hard it has been to live up to them … The paradox rests on the presumption that the arrival of freedom should be greeted with gratitude, instead of with self-reflection about what allowed it to be deprived in the first place. Emancipation is a marker of progress for white Americans, not Black ones.”

Vineyard organizations and institutions will host and sponsor many Juneteenth events, highlighted in our pages today and online, and elsewhere across the Island, and we urge you to take advantage and join the crowds. We know that there is an eager audience here, and the opportunity to listen, watch, and learn is a rare one, especially in a place with its own multicultural history to build on.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s be honest, this is George Floyd Day. Juneteenth would not be a national holiday if not for George Floyd. This is really about more racial division. The entire year of 1865 and the Emancipation Proclamation should be celebrated. This holiday is a hoax.

    • You are absolutely right engleman, Juneteenth would not be a thing if George Floyd had not been murdered by a White cop with history of violent behavior.
      Change is driven by violent behavior.
      For the US it all started at the rude bridge that arched the flood.
      Derrick Chavin the racist murderer is in jail.
      George Floyd the petty criminal is dead.
      America has day a to celebrate the imprisonment of scumbags like Derrick Chavin.
      Floyd did not die in vain, Chavin will.

    • Juneteenth celebrates 1865 and the Emancipation Proclamation.
      Juneteenth is the only holiday the celebrates the elimination of slavery as government policy.
      MLK day celebrates a reduction in racism.

  2. Andy– Easter is a hoax– it’s about religious division.

    Juneteenth marks a real day, that really happened.

    You are likely correct that the gruesome murder of George Floyd ( thank you for saying his name, finally) raised awareness of racial disparities.
    That, along with the free and fair election of president Biden were contributing factors to this long overdue recognition of the final end of a horrible chapter in our country’s history.
    It certainly would not be a holiday if trump had won the 2020 election.
    And no one really has to question why.

  3. Don,
    How can you say that about 45? He did sign a law that permanently funds HBCU’s to the tune of 250 million per year and was instrumental in criminal justice reform. But we will never know if he would have signed this too. I completely understand how and why so many people despise the man but there are a few good things that were done during his years in office.

    It is shocking how this remarkable day in our history went unrecognized nationally until now. How do we have a MLK before this day? And I’m not saying we should not have a MLK day just amazed as to why Juneteenth now. It’s actually a time in history that we can teach about where we brought people together.

    • Carl– I can say that about trump because he has some racist tendencies, to put it politely.
      Faced with bi partisan support for the 2 things you mention, trump knows how to court a vote.

      Take a look at any $20 bills you may have.
      In 2016 after the treasury department announced it was going to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, trump opposed the move, calling it “pure political correctness” during an interview on the campaign trail in April 2016. He shut that idea down right away as president.

      andy is likely correct that the murder of George Floyd contributed to the passage of this holiday.

      • Don,
        I have been doing some research on your comment about Tubman and it seems like this is a bi partisan issue as to why Tubman isn’t on the twenty yet. According to the Washington Post changing currency is a glacial process.
        From the Washington Post: The Trump administration adhered to the Obama administration’s timetable while working as quickly as possible to develop a new note,” said Monica Crowley, who served as spokeswoman for Trump’s treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin. “Given the complexity of the process, it’s no wonder the Biden administration has also decided not to accelerate the bill’s release, if they release it at all.”
        It seems like changing our currency is a bipartisan SNAFU just like everything else these elected nimrods profess to do for us.

  4. The only federal holiday that is a hoax is Christmas. In my opinion, it is based entirely on a hoax, a myth, a fairy tale. It certainly is not based on historical fact. It is a religious holiday based on the religious beliefs of Christians. It should not be a federal holiday at all. The argument, by Christians, that it does not breach the separation of Church and State because it is also a secular, cultural holiday is baloney. Christmas, and its accompanying annoying music everywhere, morbidly obese men in ill-fitted red suits, pagan decorations, greed and materialism, excuses for overeating and drinking too much, drunk driving, drunken parties, family dysfunction made worse, etc etc, have nothing to many people who are forced to have the Christmas myth imposed on their lives every single year. Oh, and by the way, Bah, humbug.

    The first clause in the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

    Easter is not a federal holiday.

    Juneteenth IS a federal holiday, and it’s about damn time.

    • Jackie– you got it right.
      Based on the first amendment, and the fact that the current SCOTUS is overturning many legal precedents rights , I think Christmas should be taken off the list of federal holidays.
      People could of course continue to wish each other “merry Christmas”, just as Pastafarians are free to talk like a pirate on Sept 19. but taxpayers ( such as myself) should not have to pay federal workers to take a religiously motivated holiday in direct violation of the constitution.
      I now await the inevitable whataboutism comments from andy.

    • Jackie,
      I will never think of Christmas the same way after your post. I have only known the holiday to be overly commercialized as a kid growing up and have passed the tradition on to my family as well. But after really thinking about it why is it a federal holiday. So much of it is just made up. And stressful too!

  5. Jackie, my wife and I have not celebrated Christmas for 52 years, No tree no gifts no nothing. So I agree with you about Christmas. And Christ was not born on Dec 25 either. I do not agree with you on Easter though or on Juneteenth.

    • It doesn’t matter if you agree with reality or not: Easter is not a federal holiday in this country, it never was, and it never will be. Juneteenth IS now a federal holiday.

      The 11 Federal Holidays:
      New Year’s Day
      MLK, Jr’s Birthday
      Washington’s Birthday/Presidents Day
      Memorial Day
      Juneteenth
      Independence Day
      Labor Day
      Columbus Day
      Veterans Day
      Thanksgiving Day
      Christmas Day

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