President Joe Biden officially made June 19, known as “Juneteenth,” a federal holiday on Thursday, signing a bill into law that unanimously passed the Senate earlier this week and later passed the House of Representatives by a large margin.
As The Daily Wire previously reported, the Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would make “Juneteenth” a federal holiday. The act is called the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act” and would designate the day as a “legal public holiday.”
The holiday will be observed by most federal employees for the first time tomorrow, since June 19th falls on a Saturday this year, per the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Today @POTUS will sign the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, establishing June 19th as a federal holiday. As the 19th falls on a Saturday, most federal employees will observe the holiday tomorrow, June 18th.
— U.S. Office of Personnel Management (@USOPM) June 17, 2021
At an event on Thursday, Biden spoke about the significance of the moment, and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke as well.
“Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments,” Biden said during a signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. “Great nations don’t walk away. We come to terms with the mistakes we made. And remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger.”
Republican Senator John Cornyn (TX), the lead Republican sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said, “There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” adding, “And I just think the reaction of members of Congress — at least speaking for myself — is we need this. We need this gesture of racial reconciliation.”
Harris provided the usual nod that the administration gives toward the concept of systemic racism in the United States in what was otherwise an extremely unifying moment for the country as members of both parties came together to pass the bill and add another federal holiday to the nation’s special days in remembrance of the end of slavery.
“We are gathered here in a house built by enslaved people. We are footsteps away from where President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation,” Harris said at the signing ceremony. “We have come far, and we have far to go. But today is a day of celebration. It is not only a day of pride. It’s also a day for us to reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to action.”
Biden also used the moment to call for more change, saying, “Juneteenth marks both the long, hard night of slavery and subjugation, and the promise of a greater morning to come.” He commented on the “moral stain” and “terrible toll” that slavery took on the country “and continues to take,” adding that it is America’s “original sin.”
He also took the opportunity to criticize voter laws, saying, that the “sacred right to vote” is “under attack.”
A few members of Congress did not vote in favor of the bill, citing the further racial division that creating a separate “Independence Day” might create for the country.
“I fully support creating a day to celebrate the abolition of slavery,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said during the debate on the House floor. “However, naming this day National Independence Day will create confusion and push Americans to pick one of those two days as their Independence Day based on their racial identity.”
Some people used the time that should be considered a powerfully unifying moment in the country to discuss criticism of Critical Race Theory (CRT).
As reported by Fox News, New York Times reporter and CNN political analyst Astead Herndon tweeted that teachers wouldn’t be able to explain “Juneteenth” to their students because of efforts to eliminate CRT from schools.
Herndon wrote, “its [sic] kinda amazing: juneteenth is gonna be a federal holiday for reasons teachers won’t be allowed to explain to their students out of fear critical race theory backlash,” adding, “why do we have this day off????? uhhhhhhhhhh[.]”
its kinda amazing: juneteenth is gonna be a federal holiday for reasons teachers won't be allowed to explain to their students out of fear critical race theory backlash
— Astead (@AsteadWesley) June 16, 2021
Herndon used the tired trope that conservatives are against CRT because they disagree with teaching children about the evils of slavery and Jim Crow, which is largely inaccurate. CRT goes far beyond teaching about the difficult parts of America’s past and contends that racism is embedded in American systems and an unavoidable part of American life today.
As Representative Tim Scott (R-SC) memorably mentioned in his rebuttal to Biden’s address to Congress in April, “today, kids are being taught that the color of their skin defines them again — and if they look a certain way, they’re an oppressor.”