Authored by Thomas Lifson via AmericanThinker.com,
Monday, the nineteenth of June, is our newest federal holiday (just 2 years old), Juneteenth, and federal workers get yet another day’s pay without having to work for it.
Since the federal workforce is heavily overrepresented with black workers (18.2% of the federal workforce versus 12.6% of the population), the words “disparate impact” come to mind, benefitting African Americans with a paid holiday that not too many other employees get, judging by the fact that I was able to book two appointments with service providers tomorrow before I even realized Monday was holiday.
Juneteenth, we are told, commemorates the end of slavery, even though President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued two-and-half-years earlier.
As Henry Louis Gates wrote, explaining the holiday:
The First Juneteenth
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” —General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865
When Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued the above order, he had no idea that, in establishing the Union Army’s authority over the people of Texas, he was also establishing the basis for a holiday, “Juneteenth” (“June” plus “nineteenth”), today the most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States. After all, by the time Granger assumed command of the Department of Texas, the Confederate capital in Richmond had fallen; the “Executive” to whom he referred, President Lincoln, was dead; and the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery was well on its way to ratification.
But Granger wasn’t just a few months late. The Emancipation Proclamation itself, ending slavery in the Confederacy (at least on paper), had taken effect two-and-a-half years before, and in the interim, close to 200,000 black men had enlisted in the fight. So, formalities aside, wasn’t it all over, literally, but the shouting?
As Professor Gates explains, despite the legal formalities, including Granger’s order, news of the emancipation spread slowly, and many people were still held as slaves in places the news hadn’t reached. The celebration of Juneteenth began as a folk holiday mostly among African Americans, but as race became an increasingly polarized factor, agitation began to make it a federal holiday, culminating in a bill passing Congress and signed by President Biden two years ago, following the George Floyd riots and BLM agitation, making it a new federal holiday, increasing labor costs for the federal government by about half a percent.
Notably the newest federal holiday created before Juneteenth was Martin Luther King Day, also commemorating the civil rights advancement of African Americans, meaning that 2 of the 12 federal holidays are now focused on this regrettable part of our history.
If all this celebration were a balm to the anger and tensions, it would be wonderful. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. The brilliant writer Shelby Steele had a lot to say about the current push for reparations and much more in the Wall Street Journal on Friday:
The Great Society was a gigantic virtue signal. It was moral advertising when the times called for the hard work of adapting a long-oppressed people to the demands of the modern world.
But an even greater barrier to black development turned out to be freedom itself. In the mid-’60s, when the civil-rights movement and Martin Luther King were staples on the evening news, we black Americans stepped into a vastly greater freedom than anything we had ever known. King’s rhetoric—“Great God Almighty, we’re free at last”—portrayed freedom as heaven. But freedom also had to have been scary. Oppression had conditioned us to suppress our humanity, to settle ourselves into a permanent subjugation. Not the best preparation for a full life in freedom.
I believe it was this collision with freedom—its intimidating burden of responsibility, its terror of the unknown, its risk of humiliation—that pressured black Americans, especially the young, into a terrible mistake.
In segregation we had longed for a freedom grounded in democratic principles. In the ’60s we won that point. But then suddenly, with the ink still wet on the Civil Rights Act, a new voice of protest exploded onto the scene, a voice of race and color and atavistic longing: “black power.”
To accommodate, we shifted the overriding focus of racial protest in America from rights and laws to identity. Today racial preferences are used everywhere in American life. Identity is celebrated almost as profusely as freedom once was.
It all follows a simple formula: Add a history of victimization to the identity of any group, and you will have created entitlement. Today’s black identity is a victim-focused identity designed to entitle blacks in American life. By the terms of this identity, we blacks might be called “citizen-victims” or “citizens with privileges.”
The obvious problem with this is that it baits us into a life of chasing down privileges like affirmative action. In broader America, this only makes us sufferers for want of privileges. Reparation can never be more than a dream of privilege.
I truly believe that most non-black Americans want native born African Americans to achieve parity with other groups, including the comparatively recent arrivals from Asia and, yes, Africa, who have excelled in the freedom our economy offers, and have achieved average income levels higher than the general population of whites. Nigerian Americans, for example, enjoyed an average household income of $71,465, topping the median household income of the country as a whole of $69,717, and well above the comparable figure for the all-white “Appalachian Americans” of $49,747.
The end of slavery here is something that we should celebrate, though we must recognize that extra-legal forms of slavery, such as sex slavery at the hands of criminal gangs, still exists. And legal slavery still exists in a number of countries, including Sudan, Libya (where slave markets thrive in the wake of the deposing of Col. Ghaddafi at the initiative of Hillary Clinton), and Saudi Arabia. Slavery is, of course, sanctioned in the Koran, and therefore quite acceptable according to orthodox adherents of Islam.
A genuine celebration of the end of legal slavery here is well worth a federal holiday. I just wish that our discussion and broad understanding of slavery were more honest and better informed. And that, as a friend emailed me yesterday, there were not as much backsliding on civil rights in other areas:
Not only has the civil rights movement been reversed with blacks segregating themselves including across college campuses where they want their own dorms, clubs, and classes and where… the only thing that matters these days is one’s skin color, but the women’s rights movement has obviously been set back tremendously as well now that men can participate in women’s sports, purportedly have babies, and receive advantages in the workplace as long as they claim to identify as a woman.
One could also argue that voting rights are being set back as our votes become diluted through new laws that are intended to make voting easier but that allow for much more cheating as well as municipalities that are giving voting rights to illegal immigrants. Then there’s our human rights which are being impacted by a decline in quality of life with crime rampant due to progressive policies that don’t enforce criminal laws or that get rid of criminal laws, human, child and drug trafficking due to an open border and lack of enforcing our immigration laws, forced vaccinations during Covid and related dictates that have had far-reaching implications including in education, and whites (including Jews) being marginalized through reverse discrimination, lies in schools, and public policies that minimize our rights. I could go on but there’s a pattern that’s helping to lead to the decline of America.