The politics of taking a deep breath before going out on that limb
Ph.D. | 6/20/2012, 5 p.m.
Recently, two fairly well-known academics and activists jabbed out at President Obama for "insulting the race" and "slapping" the Black community in the face.
The first, physician and minister Ronald V. Myers, is the founder and chair of the National Juneteenth Holiday movement. His beef is that while President Obama gives an annual proclamation and hosts a White House reception for Cinco de Mayo, National Jewish Holocaust Day, and a small range of others celebrations, the President of the United States *(POTUS) has yet to honor the Juneteenth holiday that way.
To Myers, this is clear evidence that the president takes the Black community for granted and does not treat the African American community better or even equal to other American ethnic groups.
Even though his comparison is essentially an apples and oranges one--both Cinco de Mayo and the Jewish Holocaust Day holiday, for example, are backed by foreign countries and are part of America's conduct of international affairs, a characteristic not shared by Juneteenth--Myers may have a point.
The problem is, however, in how he's making that point. In accusing the president of being disingenuous and insulting to the entire Black community because he has not yet acceded to the demands/petitions from the Juneteenth Committee, Myers is helping that group of relentless Obama-haters always on the prowl for another complaint and sour note against the president.
Granted, Myers and his committee have done an excellent job of convincing more than 40 states to acknowledge Juneteenth in their localized annual observances, and they may pull off a minor miracle in eventually getting all 50 states to do so. That still will not make Juneteenth a national holiday nor make it worthy of being one. And throwing semantic tomatoes at the person you want to champion this cause is a significant motivator for more refusals.
Besides that, historically, Myers and his committee, with all due respect, are wrong. He, along with most loose and lazy researchers, regularly incorrectly tout that the June 19, 1865, announcement by Col. Gordon Granger that all of the slaves in Texas were therefore freed, also meant slavery in the USA was over.
Juneteenth is and was essentially a Texas-Oklahoma holiday. President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a war-time order under his authority as commander-in-chief, and even then, it was to free slaves in the 11 rebellious states and selected parishes of Louisiana only.
It did not address the slaves in the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Delaware and Maryland.
After the Civil War (Lee surrendered in April, 1865), Lincoln's proclamation, if it still had any validity, was only in effect in Texas and the other rebel states, not in the other parts of America.
Slavery still existed in the USA well after the Appomattox surrender. The Dec. 6, 1865 ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (by Georgia, of all states) legally ended slavery in America, not Juneteenth. So declaring Juneteenth as a national holiday celebrating the ending of American slavery would be symbolic at best, but clearly not historical. Dec. 6 would make more sense.