June 19, 2023
By Dr. M. Mike McNair
When President Joe Biden signed the legislation two years ago, designating Juneteenth, as a federal holiday many considered it a tiny measure and even a capitulation to forces on the left. I for one, considered it a huge measure because it forces the media and the public to grapple with the day, the history and it’s implications every year. Beyond the celebrations, music and collaboration by people of color – it is most importantly a day in history that must be examined.
It doesn’t take a genius or historian to ask questions and do a little research about Juneteenth. And the closer one looks, the clearer it becomes that the resistance to ending slavery in America then, appears to resemble the backlash against federal laws today. But that is only true when the federal law protects or supports citizens when local and state officials did not. Which is why when the federal government freed enslaved people – state and local governments continued, in every conceivable way – to terrorize, marginalize and intimidate people of color. Listening to the rhetoric of “Making America Great Again” and “Where Woke Goes to Die” we hear the sounds of Dixie and Jim Crow, crooning in the background, pining for the days done by of Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind.
Juneteenth was not simply the result of a proclamation in 1863 – (2 years into a 4 -year war) or the enforcement of a general order at the end of it. The end of the Civil War can easily be attributed to the addition of nearly 200,000 Black soldiers to the fighting ranks of the Union Army against the Confederacy at that mid-point. The additional troops tipped the scales to favor the Union and the end of the gruesome human trafficking so long condoned by this nation. The lives lost, the blood spilled, continues to be revered precious treasure that undergirds the democracy we ALL hold dear.
So, we hail JUNETEENTH, the day –the holiday and we don’t hide the history but rather recall with awe the sacrifices made to get us here. We also redouble our efforts to hold all government officials, especially state and local officials accountable to support and defend ALL people. Not just the wealthy, the white and the well connected.