June 18, 2021

Remember when making Juneteenth a national holiday was a Donald Trump campaign promise?

From September 25, 2020: "President Donald Trump made a series of promises at a campaign event in Atlanta on Friday in a bid to woo Black voters, including establishing Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of U.S. slavery, as a federal holiday" (Reuters).

Of course, it was just "a bid to woo Black voters" when Trump promised to do it, but now that the members of Congress and the new President have actually made Juneteenth a national holiday, is anyone minimizing the achievement as pandering to black voters?

And then there was a time — just before Juneteenth last year — when Trump asserted: "I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous." If only Trump were still on Twitter — don't you think he'd be claiming credit for the new holiday? But the truth is, Juneteenth was already a holiday in 47 states (and the District of Columbia) when Trump made his campaign promise last September.

ADDED: I'll answer my own question — "is anyone minimizing the achievement as pandering to black voters?" — with a qualified yes. Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post is minimizing the achievement but only of the Republicans who voted for it: 

Supporting the Juneteenth holiday is a gesture that lets Republicans pretend to acknowledge the nation’s original sin of slavery even as they insist that racism is confined to our national past. At the same time, however, Republicans across the country — egged on by Fox News and the right-wing media chorus — are trying to pass laws barring schools from teaching the factual history of racism and white supremacy in this country under the guise of attacking “critical race theory,” a set of academic concepts they stripped of its original meaning and context.

Stock response: Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.

Better response: "Supporting the Juneteenth holiday is a gesture..." for everyone

New topic prompt: Robinson says "'critical race theory,' a set of academic concepts they stripped of its original meaning and context"... but unless you can state the original meaning clearly, persuasively, and with an ongoing willingness to defend it to ordinary Americans, the issue that lefties brought into existence has a life of its own. This issue has real substance. Unlike a new national holiday, it's not a gesture. But if you won't talk about the substance, if you restrict yourself to incanting a phrase, then you are straining to make it a mere gesture. Your antagonists are going substantive, so you'd better fight on the substantive level. If you don't, your antagonists can and should make inferences about why you don't. My inference is that your substance is only appealing to left-wingers.


Ann Althouse said...

Steven writes:

I guarantee you that Mr. Robinson probably had another column ready to go in case Republicans voted against the Juneteenth holiday. He would have told us it is so typical of the racism of the Republican party that they didn't vote to make this a holiday.
Republicans are never allowed to win in matters of race.

Ann Althouse said...

LA_Bob writes:

"Unlike a new national holiday, [the original meaning and context of critical race theory] is not a gesture. But if you won't talk about the substance, if you restrict yourself to incanting a phrase, then you are straining to make it a mere gesture."

For certain, the elevation of "Juneteenth" to national holiday status is mere gesture. To the extent it's a paid holiday, it's less a "day of reflection" than just another chance to sleep late and take a day off from work. But I don't think Mr Robinson strains to make the issue of CRT a "mere gesture". He does it as casually as he crosses his arms.

What Eugene Robinson really strains to do is keep racism, which more and more is confined to our past, alive as the eternal burning national issue. It can't be allowed to die lest the grievance industry and Robinson's reason for writing die with it.

Ann Althouse said...

Mary Beth writes:

I have read some criticism of the holiday (on Twitter). Some that it's pandering, but more that the name "Independence Day" should have been "Emancipation Day". And the date of the passage of the 13th Amendment would make more sense than a date that is about the events in one state. (My guess is that a mid-June holiday fits the calendar better than one in January.) Although, the criticism/suggestion that I liked the best was asking why he didn't make voting day a national holiday. I suppose the problem with that is that it's not every year and it challenges their thinking to have a holiday that only occurs some years.

I have seen some comments that people are afraid this will bring more division and disunity but I haven't seen any real resentment over the holiday except from a guy who owns a restaurant in a business district and another federal holiday means another day of slow business for him. He is an example, though, of non-federal employees who work service jobs and will be working whether there's a federal holiday or not. A new federal holiday has no benefits for service workers. For these types of businesses that remain open, they will be faced with the problem of who gets the day off. The ones who would normally have that day scheduled off? Non-whites? However it's decided, people will be upset. Some will have wanted the day off and didn't get it, some will have wanted to work for double time but felt pressured to take the day off.