The US has made June 19, or Juneteenth, a public holiday. This second independence day, as it were, commemorates the liberation of enslaved Afro-Americans.
It dates back to June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger proclaimed the abolition of slavery in Galveston, Texas. It brought to an end the second genocide on US soil - after the forced displacement and persecution of native Americans.Confronting the past?
Does the Juneteenth holiday mean the US is now willing to fully confront its past? Of course not! Instead, we are witnessing both openness and denial in discussions of US slavery - a system that played a decisive role in allowing the US to develop into the richest nation on Earth.
This schizophrenia was evident most recently in Texas, the first US state to make Juneteenth a holiday in 1980. The Texas legislature passed a law that effectively bans public schools from teaching students about racism. As Juneteenth becomes a US-wide holiday, Texas lawmakers, it seems, are desperate to prevent educators from addressing the atrocities of US slavery, and persistent anti-Black racism today.Police brutality
The racism that permeated US society after the abolition of slavery has largely remained in place to this day. It manifests itself in excessive, often lethal, police brutality against Afro-Americans, and in the stark wealth inequality between black and white US citizens.
Lawyer Johanna Soll holds Germans and US citizenship
The Black Lives Matter movement succeeded in drawing greater attention to racism and the problem of police violence against Afro-Americans, especially after the murder of George Floyd. Indeed, it is chiefly thanks to these activists that Juneteenth is now a US holiday.
This holiday commemorating the end of slavery is both overdue and important but will have little impact on everyday life. It would be far more helpful for US Congress to pass a pending police reform bill.Republicans oppose police reform
It would establish certain standards and procedures that should exist in any rule of law-based system. They encompass extended liability in cases of police misconduct, establishing anti-discrimination directives, running racial awareness workshops, banning chokeholds and carotid-holds, and permitting the use of deadly force only as a last resort. Republicans in Congress, however, vehemently oppose such police reform.
Only laws offer a means of effectively combating the systemic racism that blights the US today. In absence of such legislation, Juneteenth offers little more than symbolic solace.
It has been 150 years since the abolition of US slavery. To this day, African Americans are still treated as second-class citizens.
Juneteenth changes nothing about this.