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The Real Meaning of Juneteenth

1,481 words

Unless you’re a Texan, you probably never heard of Juneteenth until last week.

This holiday celebrates the end of slavery and has long been a minor holiday in the Lone Star State. It commemorates the day — June 19, 1865 — where the Union declared all slaves in the state of Texas free, thus marking one of the final nails in slavery’s coffin.

Many conservatives have decided that this should be a national holiday — even though its very purpose is to pedestal the much-hated 1619 Project [1]’s view of America. An America that celebrates Juneteenth is a nation that hates itself and the people who built it.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas introduced a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, which would give blacks two whole holidays to celebrate themselves. The holiday is “an opportunity to reflect on our history, the mistakes we have made, but yet how far we’ve come in the fight for equality, and a reminder of just how far we still have to go,” Cornyn, the former Senate Majority Whip, said [2]. He also called slavery America’s “original sin” and insisted we must atone for it. Democrats have proposed their own legislation in the House.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell celebrated [3] Juneteenth as a day dedicated to overcoming “the stain of our original sin. We must keep working to ensure that the timeless principles of our founding continue to triumph over prejudice and injustice.”

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said [4] Juneteenth is “a day that every American should take pride in,” even though the day is intended to instill shame in white Americans.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a possible “Trumpist” presidential candidate in 2024, commemorated [5] Juneteenth as “an important opportunity to honor the principles of the Declaration of Independence and celebrate the achievements and contributions African Americans have made, and continue to make, in Florida and across our Nation.”

Daily Wire editor in chief Ben Shapiro declared [6]: “Juneteenth should absolutely be a national holiday. It’s a reminder of the horrors of slavery and racism, and the virtuous quest to vitiate the evils of bigotry and tyranny by vindicating the universal ideals of the founders.” He added that Frederick Douglass “should be on the national currency.”

A few moments after those tweets, Shapiro complained [7] that the 1619 Project view of America encouraged statue destruction and hatred of America — completely ignoring how Juneteenth inspires the same animosities.

President Trump celebrated Juneteenth, even claiming he made it [8] “very famous.” First Lady Melania Trump released a commemoration video [9] from the White House for the holiday.

Conservatives imagine the holiday as a day to celebrate America eliminating slavery. In their eyes, slavery was a cancerous appendage good Americans surgically removed.

But to blacks and Leftists, Juneteenth is a day to damn America for slavery. To them, slavery wasn’t an aberration — it stands at the heart of the American experience and requires more atonement than a Juneteenth declaration. It’s a holiday to remind America of how much they owe black people and how black people are the true founders.

“That the US doesn’t have an Emancipation Day to mark our abolishing an institution antithetical to our founding ideals of freedom & liberty speaks to the ongoing cover-up and our inability, still, to acknowledge what we did and who we are,” 1619 Project director Nikole Hannah-Jones tweeted [10]. Her statement underlies the holiday’s true purpose of instilling shame in white Americans.

“[A]s we celebrate Juneteenth in the midst of this charlatan’s presidency and this global reckoning on racism, it only becomes more important that we begin work on what America truly needs: a New Reconstruction, a strong and truly reparative framework for correcting the wrongs done to black people,” says [11] Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith. “Something more substantial than the chokehold bans that have been tried, and certainly reforms that only ultimately give police departments more money and power. We appreciate that Aunt Jemima is gone, but that won’t do anything to ensure that our children will survive their next traffic stop. The chains are off, but we are not yet free.”

Many black commentators want to erase white efforts to end slavery and claim that blacks freed themselves. Juneteenth is a day to indulge in black ethno-narcissism, not a time to credit the Union armies.

New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie argued this point in his Juneteenth essay [12]. He doesn’t cite any examples of the slaves freeing themselves; he just says they were the staunchest supporters of abolition and that makes them the real emancipators. It’s a hilarious point to mark a holiday celebrating a white Union general of a mostly white army telling black Texans they’re free.

The Times columnist also argued the day places blacks at the center of the American experience.

Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved black Americans to the cause of human freedom. . . . It gives us another way to recognize the central place of slavery and its demise in our national story. And it gives us an opportunity to remember that American democracy has more authors than the shrewd lawyers and erudite farmer-philosophers of the Revolution, that our experiment in liberty owes as much to the men and women who toiled in bondage as it does to anyone else in this nation’s history.

His view that the blacks freed themselves is shared by Boston University history professor Ibram X. Kendi, the media’s favorite expert on race and the director of the “Anti-Racism Center.”

“In the White savior story, Lincoln, Grant or some White man won the Civil War and saved Black people,” Kendi tweeted at a white reporter upset leftists tore down a Ulysses S. Grant statue. “In the actual history, Black soldiers, spies, and runaways were as critical as anyone in winning the Civil War. Lost Cause meet Crazy Cause: the Civil War’s White savior story.

Au contraire to Mr. Kendi, whites were the real emancipators. Of the over 700,000 Americans who lost their lives in the Civil War, less than 40,000 were black [13]. No more than 10,000 of the black fatalities died in combat. Blacks only composed 10% of the Union army by the end of the war. Blacks were nearly 13% of the American population [14] at the start of the war. Claiming blacks freed themselves is like saying Poland liberated itself during World War II.

These myths will become the standard American history in schools. Both sides of the Civil War will be seen as white racists, which explains why protesters are targeting Grant and Abraham Lincoln. The Union only won the war because of blacks and the whites pretty much did nothing except oppress them. The white abolitionist movement will be erased in favor of a movement that only had two leaders: Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.

Juneteenth further reinforces this narrative. Blacks made America — that’s why they deserve two national holidays to entertain their narcissism. Whites are the villains who didn’t build anything, imposed slavery, stole the natives’ land, and elected the Orange Hitler. They can never be forgiven and they need to be reminded of their sins. Juneteenth is part of that agenda.

Conservatives think they can do a creative bit of PC judo to outmaneuver the Left here. “We’re celebrating a day when Republicans freed the Democrats’ slaves! How can they call Republicans racist when Barack Obama never declared Juneteenth a holiday?!” Et cetera and et cetera. These are dumb arguments that only appeal to boomer conservatives. Meanwhile, the children and grandchildren of boomers will take Juneteenth as further evidence that America is a racist hellhole and that Black Lives Matter is righteous.

Most white Americans didn’t like [15] Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. They (correctly) saw him as a professional racial agitator who tried to undermine our country and white communities. Today, both sides of the political spectrum see King as the true embodiment of America. This change was solidified by the introduction of the Martin Luther King holiday, an event opposed by many conservatives at the time. MLK Day enshrined the civil rights revolution’s victory over the historic American nation.

Juneteenth would, similarly, solidify Black Lives Matter’s status in American history. The holiday would uphold their cause and beliefs and would ensure no one in the political mainstream questions their fundamental goodness.

Juneteenth would not celebrate America for freeing the slaves — it’s a day of penance and humiliation for white America. Only conservatives would be stupid enough to make it a national holiday.

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