Juneteeth Is a Federal Holiday but Does That Matter If Anti-Racism Education Is Under Attack?
Yesterday, Juneteenth was made a federal holiday, and many will be observing it today. The bill was passed, despite fourteen GOP senators pushing back against it. While I am glad that Freedom Day will be part of the cultural conversation in a totally new way, the reality is that while this was passed, anti-racism education is under attack in the same places that need it the most.
Juneteenth began in Texas, yet Texas’s governor, Greg Abbott, signed legislation, “outlining how state schools can teach students about race and racism and forbidding schools from teaching that individuals bear responsibility for actions committed by people in the past because of their race,” according to The Hill. This is only the latest GOP bill that is trying to avoid the teaching anti-racism and examining how race and racism have impacted history and the present-day United States—something that is tied to Juneteenth.
How are you supposed to teach about the holiday when we cannot discuss slavery candidly? More so, what does making Juneteenth a federal holiday mean to the daily lives of American Black people if things like police brutality, private prisons, systematic disenfranchisement, and reparations aren’t treated like issues worth investing in?
Republicans passing bills that limit CRT, especially in Southern states where most Black people still live, means that Black people are also getting taught a subpar history of the Black experience in this country. That matters for our own education, because there is a lot of false information that gets spread, especially if you have educators who are not invested in thinking about race critically.
I had a teacher who told me and my classmates that slave owners were not terrible to their slaves because they were their property, so slave owners had to take good care of them—in the New York City Catholic school system.
That had a huge impact on me until I did my own research on the topic many years later. But it shouldn’t take going into higher education to be taught foundational information about the reality of chattel slavery in this country.
Right now, with crime on the rise in the aftermath of the pandemic, people are afraid, and the tough-on-crime rhetoric is everywhere. That rhetoric leads to over-policing Black folks and putting them into the prison system without dealing with the social issues that create higher crime rates.
Listening to Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers sing the Black National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” just filled me with a deep cringe. It is the kind of symbolic fluffing that accomplishes nothing but is thrown in the face of people who are asking for more change. And that is what I fear will happen without more pushes for actually teaching ant-racism.
Nancy Pelosi, other lawmakers sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the black national anthem, to celebrate making Juneteenth a federal holiday. pic.twitter.com/IAafgYUycQ
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) June 17, 2021
(image: JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
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