On the first federally recognized Juneteenth holiday, Americans just waking up to the idea that freedom and independence didn’t come for all of us on July 4, 1776 (I’m looking at you, my fellow white people) are trying to understand how to honor it. The Lincoln Project, founded by a group of former white Republicans, offered this tribute on Twitter.
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) June 19, 2021
The video is beautiful and wholly appropriate. The struggles of the past for black Americans during the most horrifying period of our nation’s history and ever since are presented and victories like seeing the first black vice president elected are celebrated. The message written along with the tweet, however, is debatable in its appropriateness.
The holiday honors the day that the military ensured that the last slaves were set free, riding into Galveston, Texas to tell slaves from whom the news of the Emancipation Proclamation had been withheld that they were no longer the legal property of anyone other than themselves. More than 150 years of a struggle toward freedom later, that day has finally been recognized as the day that all Americans, regardless of race, became free.
It is in the written part of the tweet by the Lincoln Project that many on Twitter found fault. Is America remarkable for recognizing its past mistakes? After all, it only took us 150 years to recognize that a holiday commonly celebrated by a large number of Americans is important and that calling a day 90 years prior to the last citizen of America being recognized as fully human and autonomous “independence day” might be somewhat tone deaf.
Perhaps a better message is that America can be as remarkable as we’ve always proclaimed it to be by recognizing that making Juneteenth a federal holiday is but a small step toward the goal.
Twitter was divided in their reception of the message from The Lincoln Project. Read some of their comments below: