By Alex Lasry
All Americans will be celebrating Juneteenth as an official federal holiday this year despite Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s best efforts to stop that from happening.
Last year, Johnson was the only senator who objected a bill that would have established Juneteenth Day as a federal holiday. Johnson’s objection led to other Republican senators abandoning the effort to pass the bill because they didn’t want to bother using the time or political energy. In short, they didn’t really care.
On Tuesday, Johnson finally lifted his objection to the bill and the Senate passed the measure unanimously to establish a federal holiday for Juneteenth. The House of Representatives quickly approved the bill on Wednesday, but not unanimously, with 14 House Republicans voting against it. President Joe Biden then signed the bill into law on Thursday, making Friday the federally declared holiday because Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year.
Even though Johnson lifted his objection, that does not mean he is in support of the new federal holiday. He still complained and questioned the very need for Juneteenth to be a federal holiday at all. After passage, he told reporters: “While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter.”
In short, Johnson only voted to make Juneteenth into a federal holiday because he realized that none of his colleagues agreed with his ignorant and racist view that it shouldn’t be one. This is just more of the embarrassing behavior that we’ve come to expect from America’s worst senator.
While finally making Juneteenth Day a federal holiday is a significant step forward in coming to grips with the wrongs of the past, the work to ensure equal justice and fulfill the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution marches on.
Juneteenth is a holiday to celebrate freedom, but it is also a day of reckoning. We should use this day to continue to confront the systemic racism that is still all too present, and seek ways to atone for the centuries of enslavement of Black people and the ongoing unfair treatment that they still face today.
Let’s all celebrate this victory that Juneteenth is finally a federal holiday this year. Then, let’s get back to work in making this a more equitable and just society.