Senate Unanimously Passed a Bill Making Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

Juneteenth is on its way to becoming a federal holiday. The Senate unanimously passed a decision on Tuesday establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a federal holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States.

The day has long been celebrated within the Black community, but legislation gained traction during the Black Lives Matter uprising following the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin. Couple that with the Democrat majority in Congress, and the bill was passed with little pushback. Wisconsin Republican senator Ron Johnson did express opposition to the bill in 2020, but said in a statement that he will support it since “there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter.”

Vice President Kamala Harris introduced the bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2020 when she was still a senator. “Juneteenth is a day to remember the millions who died from enslavement in America, and those who survived and fought to end it,” Harris tweeted on June 18 of last year. “And it needs to be a national holiday. We’re introducing a bill to do just that.”

Juneteenth will become a federal holiday once passed by the House of Representatives. However, the announcement has been met with some criticism, with many pointing out that this is a distraction from important racial issues.

As columnist Renée Graham tweeted, “The Senate unanimously passed legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, yet many of these senators don’t want schoolchildren to be taught why Juneteenth is relevant or the centuries-long atrocities that preceded it.” 

Others point out that while Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday is important, so is teaching about it in schools. “Getting Juneteenth recognized as a national holiday doesn’t stop the fight for police reform & reparations. It’s an opportunity to TEACH the masses about an important part of AA history,” one user tweeted.

Others are calling out the hypocrisy of the bill:

Twitter users are also reminding people of the huge reform that needs to be done within the police force and voting laws. “I have mixed feelings about making Juneteenth a federal holiday,” Terrance D. Carroll, the former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, tweeted. “It’s probably a good thing, but I refuse to get too excited about something that doesn’t fundamentally change the status quo. A game changer is passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.”

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act is proposed legislation that would restore and strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, especially certain portions that were altered by the United States Supreme Court in 2013 after the Shelby County v. Holder decision.

And then there is the conversation surrounding the reparations that were promised to victims of slavery and their descendants that were never received. 

The reaction to the Juneteenth news is a reminder that although this is a step forward, there’s still a long way to go.

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