On Saturday, June 19, we will celebrate Juneteenth, when we commemorate the day of June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger informed former slaves in Galveston, Texas, of their emancipation from slavery, over two months after Lee surrendered in Appomattox, and over two years after Lincoln issued the emancipation Proclamation. (News of the end of the war traveled slowly through Texas; and several confederate divisions did not surrender until June 1865.) (https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-is-juneteenth/)
There has been a movement to commemorate this event as the final end to chattel slavery in America, and to honestly discuss the history of slavery as a terrible historic fact. This week, President Joe Biden signed the act, passed by both houses of Congress, declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday. (https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/biden-signs-juneteenth-bill/index.html)
This comes amid the new Republican-conservative hysteria over Critical Race Theory (CRT), a concept, developed in the 1970s and 1980s, that looks into how race and racism affect every aspect of American society, be it education, municipal government, medical care, law and law enforcement, employment, etc., to how thoroughly racism has permeated our society and public discourse. (https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/writing_in_literature/literary_theory_and_schools_of_criticism/critical_race_theory.html) Republican legislators and media talkers have told their followers that CRT is too divisive for our society, it makes people feel bad, and it causes white people to hate themselves. Several state legislatures dominated by Republicans have introduced bills banning or limiting the teaching of CRT in public schools, even though it’s a discussion mainly in university circles. (https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/551977-gop-legislatures-target-critical-race-theory) There are people who would not face the reality of racism in this country, and would not learn about or confront slavery in America and how it affected our economy and society.
This meshes with another new Republican-conservative bogie, the 1619 Project of the New York Times, named after the date in August 1619 when the first people from Africa came to Virginia as slaves. (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html) Just like with CRT, Republican-dominated legislatures have introduced laws attempting to prohibit the use of the 1619 Project in classrooms as part of discussions about racism in this country. trump, in an attempt to please his base, had organized a “1776 Commission,” to call for “patriotic education” in schools and to minimize the effect and reality of slavery. (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/22/1776-commission-report-trump-administration-historians)
Of course the Republicans whine about kids being “brainwashed” and “indoctrinated” in schools by “leftist professors;” they’re projecting their own effort to turn schools and education into propaganda tools onto people who want an honest discussion about racism in this country. They don’t want any serious intellectual discussions, which would destroy their political power and their worldview. Let’s not take their “arguments” too seriously; all they want to do is hang on to their waning power. Let us continue to learn on our own, in and outside the classroom, and discuss our learning with others. Our brains, and our votes, are our mightiest weapons.