You may not have heard about Juneteenth before, or heard of it only in passing. There's a good chance many of you reading this don't know what's the significance of this holiday, which I'm arguing should be recognized as a national holiday -- just as important as Independence Day.
Juneteenth commemorates the beginning of the end of slavery in America. The only holiday that recognizes and acknowledges this important milestone, without which our country would not be free. We cannot claim to be a free country if part of the population is legally deprived of their freedom and basic rights, which was the case prior to the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves.
We all know how important freedom is to Americans, being a cornerstone of our identity as a country and society. The United States did not recognize the freedom of all its citizens until after the Civil War, which was fought mainly over the freedom of slaves. If it were not for the thousands of freed slaves who fought alongside the Union soldiers during the Civil War, we may not have become the United States that we are today. While the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order by then-President Abraham Lincoln ending slavery in the seceded Confederate states, was signed in January 1863, it wasn't until Juneteenth (June 19) 1865 that all slaves learned about the order granting them freedom. During these two years, a large number of slaves continued to be held captive unaware of the declaration that set them free.
As we should all know this did not end slavery altogether at the time, but the majority of slaves were freed and it was the driving force to end slavery afterward. It's a shame that a major part of American society was legally enslaved until nearly a hundred years after the birth of the U.S. It's an even bigger shame that to this day many Americans are still being treated unequally and unjustly just because of the color of their skin.
African Americans have suffered throughout early American history and to this day there still exists widespread systemic racism in society. In order to fix this problem, we need to first acknowledge that it happened and was wrong. I think recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday will help bring more awareness and understanding of the horrific crimes that occurred. It would also be a positive step toward unity, especially since African Americans have been celebrating this holiday for over 150 years without any acknowledgment from the rest of Americans, while this should bpee a holiday celebrated by every American!
The protests that have swept the nation, and reached beyond our borders to other places around the world following the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of police, have brought to the forefront the plight of African Americans and some of the crimes committed against them that a lot of us never hear about. Have you ever heard about the Tulsa race massacre which happened in 1921, or that over 4000 lynchings took place in the U.S. and were often turned into a spectacle of terror and torture, perpetrated and watched by crowds of hundreds or thousands? If we heard about anything similar taking place in another country we would deem them backward and barbaric, but to know that less than 100 years ago this was happening in America is horrifying. The sad truth is that the perpetrators of most of these crimes were never held accountable to this day! No one was charged with any crime following the Tulsa massacre and the vast majority of lynchers got away with their crimes.
History cannot be undone, but we can at least acknowledge the crimes that were committed and stop celebrating the criminals. Let's tear down the symbols of racism and instead erect monuments for the victims. Let's end the systemic racism by supporting the victims and not the aggressors. America needs a holiday that celebrates the end of slavery, and the least we can do is make Juneteenth a national holiday to remember the victims of slavery who fought for our country and helped make it the great* country it is.
Our greatness is still in progress and until all oppression and racism end, we cannot deem ourselves great.