- Despite passing unanimously in the Senate, 14 House Republicans voted against the bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday.
- Their reasoning was terrible and and at the core revealed something simple: they don’t support Black people.
- The 14 are modern segregationists and should be considered as such.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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Earlier this month, President Joe Biden signed a bill proclaiming Juneteenth, a day celebrating the end of slavery, as a federal holiday. That bill had been unanimously passed by the Senate and passed the House 415 to 14. It was a rare moment of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill for everyone but those 14 Representatives, all Republican, who voted against it.
The 14 are a veritable who’s who of the most objectionable names in Congress. They represent the cutting edge of those who want to return America to the worst parts of its past. These 14 come from a long tradition of legislators standing in the way of justice and progress. In the 1950’s they would’ve stood in the way of integrated schools. In the 1960’s they would’ve voted against civil rights. They are today’s George Wallaces.
Among the Members of Congress who voted against Juneteenth are some recognizable names: Reps. Paul Gosar, Thomas Massie, Ralph Norman. Each of them twisted themselves into a pretzel to make their argument against recognizing the holiday – but at the core of it they were really saying something simple: they don’t support Black people.
Gosar is probably the least surprising name on this list. He has a bit of a reputation for cozying up with white power activists, and his excuse, that Juneteenth is “critical race theory in action,” doesn’t even pretend to hide that his objections are racist in nature.
Norman claims he opposes Juneteenth because he thinks it will be too costly for federal workers to have another day off. But South Carolina, his home state, closed down on Confederate Memorial Day, a far more objectionable holiday. From what I could see, Norman has not raised any objections to that holiday, which would suggest an ulterior motive for opposing Juneteenth.
Remember, the Senate unanimously voted to make Juneteenth a national holiday. That includes the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Josh Hawley, who helped foment the January 6 insurrection. This new Gang of 14 have built a new level of divisive politics.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day on which Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas and informed the formerly enslaved people there that they were free. The emancipation of Black Americans is something unequivocally worth celebrating, as it was the first step in the ongoing struggle to eradicate the racism that has long infected the American state and body politic. It is frankly remarkable it took more than 150 years to recognize it with a federal holiday.
In many of their objections, the 14 protested that calling Juneteenth an independence day cheapened the 4th of July. Thomas Massie claimed that calling Juneteenth “independence day” (the official name of the holiday is Juneteenth National Independence Day) could “create confusion” and “push Americans to pick” between Juneteenth and July 4th. This is an absurd notion on its face. No one has suggested eliminating the July 4th holiday, except for the people against Juneteenth.
All of the objections, no matter the language used, are coming from a racist place. We have to look no further than the past comments of the 14 “nos” to figure that out.
Rep. Mo Brooks was one of the 14. When Jeff Sessions was nominated for Attorney General, Brooks said the criticism of Sessions’ past was part of a “war on whites“‘ that mirrors the most heinous of white nationalist talking points.
During the recent wave of anti-Asian hate crimes, Rep. Andy Biggs voted against a resolution condemning them, calling it “woke culture on steroids.” It really comes as no surprise that he voted against Juneteenth as well.
The examples go on, but the history is clear. The 14 are modern racists, today’s segregationists. The most extreme of the extreme. And fully representative of the current brand of Republican politics.