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14 House Republicans Voted Against the Juneteenth Holiday & Their Reasons Were Total Garbage

A black lives matter supporter marches holding a sing reading "choosing when to care about racism is racist"

That Juneteenth bill sure did move fast.

Following Tuesday’s unanimous consent vote in the Senate, the bill to establish a federal holiday passed in the House Wednesday and was signed into law by President Joe Biden Thursday. It’s effective immediately, meaning most federal employees just got a surprise day off this Friday. (Private businesses aren’t mandated to give employees federal holidays off.)

While the bill did pass, fourteen House Republicans voted against it and the reasons they gave for doing so are absolute garbage.

As a reminder, Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, marks the day the last enslaved people in Texas were freed. Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation nearly three years earlier, ending slavery in Confederate states, but enforcement of the proclamation was pretty much up to Union troops. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that a general order declared an end to slavery in Texas.

It’s an important part of the country’s history and a federal holiday could go a long way toward making sure all Americans are aware of it. There are a lot of valid criticisms of the move as well, but none of the reasons those 14 Republicans gave fall into that category.

Some Republicans simply objected to the name—or at least, that was the excuse they gave. The holiday’s official name is Juneteenth National Independence Day, which some lawmakers said was confusing or “conflicting” with July 4th’s Independence Day and will “push Americans to pick one of those two days as their Independence Day based on their racial identity,” as Kentucky’s Thomas Massie put it.

Chip Roy of Texas said the name “needlessly divides our nation on a matter that should instead bring us together by creating a separate Independence Day based on the color of one’s skin.”

This is a weird argument since it seems like common sense that most people will refer to this holiday simply as “Juneteenth,” just as Independence Day is more commonly referred to as “The 4th of July.” Do these Republicans really think their constituents aren’t smart enough to handle two holidays with the word “independence” in their names or are they just grasping at straws for a way to vote no without making themselves look fully racist? (I’m going to guess it’s both!)

Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas said he doesn’t think we need any more holidays. “We have enough federal holidays right now. I just don’t see the reason in doing it,” he told USA Today. “I don’t think it rises to the level I’m going to support it.”

The “reason” for adding Juneteenth to the list of federal holidays is that it’s a monumental part of the country’s history that deserves to be commemorated. I don’t know what “level” he needs that history to “rise to” before he deems it important.

But it’s Montana’s Matt Rosendale that really outdid himself with his statement explaining his “no” vote. If he’d managed to somehow fit the term “cancel culture” into his rant about Juneteenth, I would say he’d done a rightwing scaremonger buzzword bingo.

“Let’s call an ace an ace,” a statement from Rosendale reads. “This is an effort by the Left to create a day out of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make Critical Race Theory the reigning ideology of our country. Since I believe in treating everyone equally, regardless of race, and that we should be focused on what unites us rather than our differences, I will vote no.”

Rosendale says the bill “isn’t an effort to commemorate emancipation, it’s very clearly tied to the larger hard-left agenda to enshrine the racial history of this country as the prime aspect of our national story. They do not want to highlight all the good this country has brought to the world–flight, our Constitution, the defeat of communism and Nazism, the internet–but instead our racial sins. America is good and efforts to cast the country as otherwise should be opposed.”

First off, I would very much like to hear Rosendale try to define “Critical Race Theory.” What exactly does he think that means?

These Republicans are so terrified to admit that racism exists that they’re straight-up trying to rewrite history to erase the institution of slavery. And of course the people claiming a day commemorating the end of slavery is “identity politics” and “enshrining the racial history” of the country are many of the same people who refuse to remove monuments dedicated to Confederate soldiers from public spaces on the very same grounds of “honoring history.”

A federal holiday is not enough to commemorate Juneteenth. There is far more work that needs to be done to come to terms with and make reparations for this country’s history (and present!) of systemic racism and there is no better proof of that than the fact that some people actually think a simple holiday is too much, going too far.

Here are all the House Republicans who voted no on the Juneteenth National Independence Day bill:

(via HuffPost, USA Today, image: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.