Talking Points

The self-defeating opposition to Juneteenth

Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, became the 11th federal holiday with overwhelming and bipartisan support this week. But every one of the 14 dissenting votes in the House was cast by a Republican.

Some, like Rep. Thomas Massie, simply preferred calling the holiday National Emancipation Day rather than National Independence Day, which is a reasonable argument. There is also a case to be made for Sept. 22, the date President Abraham Lincoln (a Republican) initially issued the Emancipation Proclamation, over June 19.

Other arguments are more problematic — and counterproductive to a sober and prudent case against the wokeness sweeping our land.

"This is about replacing July 4th — just like the 1619 Project is about replacing 1776," tweeted conservative activist Charlie Kirk. "Conservatives must reject this."

Rep. Matt Rosendale, a Montana Republican, concurred. He called the Juneteenth campaign an "effort by the Left to create a day out of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make Critical Race Theory the reigning ideology of our country."

But the problem with the 1619 Project is that it effectively — and ahistorically — makes slavery America's founding mission rather than its greatest sin. A celebration of emancipation in fulfillment of our 1776 founding principles does the opposite. While nearly everyone who supports the 1619 Project also supports Juneteenth, there are good reasons why many who oppose that New York Times enterprise are not against the new holiday.

Meanwhile, the problem with critical race theory, intersectionality, and a whole slew of identity politics fads on the left is that they separate people into oppressor and victim groups on the basis of race and other categories in ways that neither affirm the dignity of every human being nor comport with reality.

It becomes difficult to plausibly oppose any of these things if one appears to be in denial about grave injustices. And it plays into the hands of those who would like to cast conservatives as opposed to any acknowledgement that racism is a part of our history.

The way to unify a diverse and divided country is to keep adding to the pantheon rather than canceling what is already there. Martin Luther King and Thomas Jefferson, Juneteenth and Fourth of July together. Cancel culture cannot be beaten with head-in-the-sand culture.