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July 4th or Juneteenth, Celebrate or Commemorate By Cheryll Boswell

Does this country now have two federally recognized Independence Days to celebrate-one for black people and one for white people?

On July 4th America celebrated its Independence from the tyranny of the British Empire with cookouts and red, white, and blue streamed everywhere. The resolution to become independent from British rule was drafted July 2, 1776, and approved on July 4th, 1776. Congress passed legislation making July 4th a federal holiday on June 28, 1870.

Many African Americans have celebrated Juneteenth as their Independence Day for decades. On Thursday, June 16, 2021, President Joe Biden signed Juneteenth Holiday into law. This federal holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when Major General Granger announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas, two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery in the United States.

While July 4th has become a celebration of backyard barbeques and fireworks, we have to remember slavery was still very much alive when America obtained its freedom. Africans and African Americans were still being treated as chattel, human cargo. After arriving at ports in one of the 13 colonies in this country, they were bought and sold as personal property.

Can this country move forward with having two major holidays, fifteen days apart, that celebrate independence without teaching the history of both? It is impossible to teach what Juneteenth is without teaching how this holiday began. Somehow, teaching black history in public schools to white children has become interlinked with teaching critical race theory. Critical race theory is a movement that challenges the ability of conventional legal strategies to deliver social and economic justice. It was mainly introduced to individuals studying law. Most of the chatter on critical race theory is being raised by Republicans in red states. So much talk that Governors are passing legislation to ban it from being taught in schools. Race is not a theory. Racism is not a theory. They are historical facts. Yes, racism existed and still does exist. History is not a theory. The whole truth and nothing but the truth must be part of the educational component when teaching history about what Independence Day really is. It can no longer be sugar-coated, showing Yankee soldiers playing a piccolo while fireworks explode in the background.

Since the early 80’s activists worked tirelessly to have Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday. One has to really wonder, with all the bills that are waiting on congressional approval, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, infrastructure and voting rights legislation, why was the Juneteenth Bill passed and enforced so quickly with bipartisan approval. Two days after President Biden signed Juneteenth into law, federal offices were closed. Passing the Juneteenth Holiday Bill was a political distraction. Republicans have made it known they will vote against anything Democrats stand for. Yet, they voted and approved Juneteenth into law.