Thursday, June 17, 2021

14 Angry White Men

Juneteenth is set to become the 11th federal holiday in the US, but not for the efforts by 14 white Republican men in the US House of Representatives who voted against such a measure. 

Mo Brooks of Alabama (a state that still celebrates "Confederate Memorial Day" as a state holiday) said he voted against the holiday because we "should have been celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation." It seems he's much more comfortable with a holiday that celebrates when a white person said slavery was over, versus when black people actually experienced the end of bondage.

Mike Rogers, also of Alabama, couldn't be reached for comment. I assume he was too busy changing his Wednesday stars and bars undies for his Thursday Betsy Ross flag ones. Andrew Clyde of Georgia declined to answer questions from reporters. Then again, this is the guy that claimed the Jan 6 insurrection was a "normal tourist visit," so he might actually assume Juneteenth was an attack against mediocre white men, and its up to him to fight back in the modern age.

Andy Biggs of Arizona, Chip Roy of Texas voted against the holiday because they didn't like the holiday name, formally called "Juneteenth National Independence Day" in the bill. The "independence" part felt "divisive" because "we" already have an independence day, even if that "independence" only applied to people who looked like Biggs and Roy. Thomas Massie of Kentucky had similar objections, but was concerned that having two holidays that included the word "independence" would be confusing. Clearly, it could be! I mean, my goodness, what if people started waving the American flag around on the wrong day?!?? 

Ronny Jackson of Texas voted against the bill because "we have enough federal holidays" (10, compared to say France with 11, Spain with 14, Germany with 13 and South Korea with 15.) He went on to say "I just don't see the reason in doing it. I just don't think it rises to the level I'm going to support it." Clearly, ending the greatest human rights atrocity in the United States doesn't rise to the level of giving American workers a paid day off. I wonder what, in his mind, would. Of course, given his own track record, I don't see him celebrating anything remotely related to improving conduct any time soon. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee also voted against the bill, but he celebrated Flag Day on his Twitter account, so let's assume he wasn't just against creating another holiday. 

Matt Rosendale of Montana voted against the bill because despite Juneteenth being celebrated by African Americans since 1865, for him, Juneteenth is a conspiracy designed to make "Critical Race Theory the reigning ideology of this country." You know, because its just simply intolerable for white people to have to be reminded of the complex and unclean history of America. Please note, the bill, which is under 100 words long, mentions nothing about Critical Race Theory, nor the promotion of any kind of ideology.

Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin called the effort an attempt to "balkanize our country and fuel separatism" - you know, because recognizing the end of slavery would tear us apart like say, a Civil War failed to do?

Ralph Norman of North Carolina complained that another federal holiday would cost too much. However, I don't see him attempting to remove, say, the federal holiday that commemorates a man who never actually set foot in the US, discovered nothing, and thought the island of Hispanola was India. He also railed on Twitter than Independence Day is July 4, "Period... and that's the way its been for 245 years." Because clearly, there is nothing in the last 245 years that he believes should have changed?  

I'm not sure what excuses Tom McClintock and Doug LaMalfa of California had for voting against the bill. Paul Gosar of Arizona also voted against the bill for unknown reasons, but considering his own brothers called him a pathological liar and a "snake oil salesman," he's clearly got too many of his own problems to be bothered with the dignity and respect of others. 

Truth: I did not always know what Juneteenth was. I vaguely remember reading something in my US history book, sitting nicely in my predominantly white, suburban public high school in Michigan. I didn't understand, and even in my AP classes no one took the time to really explain the significance of this date. I had to do my own education, my own work, and my own listening to understand what Juneteenth meant to my fellow citizens, to my friends. I had to learn the complex realities of slavery, "emancipation," how long it ACTUALLY TOOK for enslaved people to be be freed and the aftermath that "freedom" didn't mean "happily ever after," or even "free."

Now, it's unconscionable to watch white men continue to try to control the narrative, blame anyone suggesting white men were anything but the heroes of history, decry themselves as the real victims here, then tell black people what they should and shouldn't be celebrating, and what to call that celebration. On an individual level, we would call these kinds of behaviors hallmarks of intimate partner violence. When they are perpetrated by men in positions of power in government... we call it systemic racism.

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