North Texas Daily

Juneteenth is being failed by the state it originated in

Juneteenth is being failed by the state it originated in

Juneteenth is being failed by the state it originated in
June 25
12:30 2021

On June 17, President Joe Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday. On the surface, this is a no-brainer meant to highlight the progress we’ve made as a nation. However, the efforts to commemorate a landmark achievement are poisoned by the current political climate’s fixation on grand gestures and declarations, along with Gov. Greg Abbott wiping away critical race theory in the state’s education.

Juneteenth originated in Galveston on June 19, 1866, when African Americans received news of slavery’s abolishment — this was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Now, the holiday commemorates the emancipation of African American slaves after the Civil War in general.

The United States was entrenched in a war against its own people, fighting for whether or not African Americans should be seen as equals to their white counterparts. While the holiday’s true meaning has been whitewashed like most American history, those four years of gruesome in-fighting are an essential part of our nation’s history that should not be forgotten. Although it showcased the vilest and most corrupted aspects of the American spirit, it laid the groundwork for equality and acceptance as essential components in a working democracy.

There are countless lessons from America’s past that still ring true to this day, which makes Gov. Abbott’s intent to eliminate certain concepts of racism from entering the classroom maddening. For a leader who constantly prides his state for its “rich” and “storied” heritage, signing a bill into law that only works to censor blemishes of that history is yet another Orwellian move by the governor.

As if the current education system didn’t already omit pinnacle examples of racism and discrimination, leave it to social media and television to enlighten the general public. Many expressed disbelief when the HBO series “Watchmen” depicted the Tulsa Race Massacre, a horrific event that perfectly encapsulates the horrific realities of early 20th century America. Nicole Kassell, one of the show’s executive producers and directors, admitted that reading the episode’s screenplay was the first time she ever heard of the massacre.

Such was the case for many viewers, expressing confusion and dismay that they were never taught about in school. One also thinks of the lax curriculum that gave lukewarm lectures about the Trail of Tears. Already having to rely on television shows or social media for true, unabated history lessons are bad enough but for our education system to be implicit as well makes Gov. Abbott’s actions even more disheartening.

House Rep. Steve Toth says the bill will save children from being “[burdened] with guilt for racial crimes they had nothing to do with.” There is a fine line between not burdening children with the sobering realities of today and blatant censorship. Those justifying the bill’s rhetoric suggest they do not want to overburden today’s youth with the brutal realities that define the country’s genetic makeup.

This is hardly an effort to save young people from white guilt — it’s unjustly putting a nice little bow on a side of history that needs to be discussed now more than ever.

Imagine an education system void of transparency, where the first time you found out about a historically significant massacre was in part to a television show and not a classroom. The only way to learn from past sins is to have access to the truth.

Although the national recognition of Juneteenth is overdue, we cannot forget there is still so much ground to cover. Within the state of Texas, whose history is rich but laced with the sins of slavery, one cannot help but feel indifferent or even helpless when our governor pushes legislation to silence voices brought about by a checkered past. Officially recognizing Juneteenth pales in comparison to the potential destruction of our state’s education system.

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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