Juneteenth is America’s holiday, if we choose to make it so
June 18, President Joe Biden signed a bill making June 19th a national holiday known as Juneteenth honoring the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas learned that they were free. This is a holiday all freedom-loving Americans can and should celebrate. And considering the price America paid in the Civil War deciding the issue of slavery, it is truly a national holiday.
Many on the Left see this as a victory complementing their push to characterize America as “systemically racist” and whites as bearing racial guilt. It fits with Critical Race Theory and the narrative that America was founded on the principles of racism rather than liberty. But, for anyone willing to pay attention, it actually does the opposite.
The price America paid over the issue of slavery is mindboggling. After Americans maintained the anti-slavery movement for 70 years, the issue erupted into the nation’s most bloody war. One out of every 50 Americans alive at the time died in the war. One out of every 4.4 Americans who fought in the war died. If the same war was fought today, and the death rate was the same, 6.2-million Americans would die.
Overwhelmingly, those who died in the war were white males. The Congress that voted for the 13th Amendment was comprised almost exclusively of white men. The Congress that approved the 14th and 15th Amendments (making everyone born in the U.S. a naturalized citizen and granting the right to vote to black men, respectively) was also almost exclusively comprised of white men.
This doesn’t absolve America of her guilt of slavery or racism. But it is deeply disingenuous to hold slavery and racism up as evidence of America’s guilt without also presenting the other side of the story. Should we condemn those who fought, including those who died, fighting in the war that ended slavery as equally guilty? Should we similarly condemn their children and their children’s children?
The idea that racism is wrong is a concept fought over and handed down from generation to generation of Americans. It wasn’t discovered or invented by the proponents of Critical Race Theory. That America would willingly accept the struggle over racism is undeniable evidence that America has a conscience. Historically, this is not such a common thing for a nation to exhibit.
As part of Critical Race Theory, young, white Americans are told that they bear ‘white privilege’ and ‘white guilt.’ Young blacks and other minorities are told that they are victims, oppressed by white oppressors. In the process, they are absolved, to the degree that a society and government can do so, of responsibility for their actions. It’s not their fault. Both are harmed by these perspectives.
Young whites are disincentivized by the notion that they’re unworthy. Blacks are disincentivized by the notion that it’s someone else’s responsibility – that someone owes them the success and happiness they seek in life.
America is a great country, first and foremost, because it has a conscience. Whatever her flaws, America is a great country because she doesn’t hide from the truth, good or bad. And Juneteenth is an American holiday because it celebrates liberty and the willingness to pay the price to earn it.