Texans understand the significance of Juneteenth although many other Americans don’t. It’s high time that they did. And it’s also high time that Juneteenth became not only a national holiday but something else: A springboard.
A springboard? What in blazes am I talking about?
Well, listen up and I’ll tell you.
If you’re from Texas, chances are you know that Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865, the day the very last slave was freed in Galveston when Union Gen. Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 from the balcony of Ashton Villa. No more slavery. Pretty awesome, right? Well, yes and no. Sure, slavery’s gone and that’s awesome. But what’s been left behind? The answer is racism in all its ugliness. Hardly awesome.
So let’s designate Juneteenth a national holiday and, at the same time, use its celebration as a springboard to launch a 21st century abolitionist movement dedicated to the eradication of racism.
A tall order? I don’t think so. If we Americans can put a man on the moon or “Stand Up to Cancer,” why can’t we rid ourselves of racism? The answer of course is that we can.
And how would we go about doing this? I have some thoughts:
How about having every high school and every college in the country offer a required course on Americanism, which would include reading books on racism with discussions to follow about its evils? How about having speakers come into those classes and talk about why racism is so divisive and damaging to our way of life? Next, using teleconferencing and social networking, how about having those discussions and lectures become national? Pretty soon, young people across the nation would begin to understand that what counts is not skin color; it’s all those other qualities that have made our country and its citizens so great. I say that if we did this and more, racism in the United States would become a thing of the past in 20 years.
Never forget: in 1852 a lady by the name of Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” It was read by millions and fueled the anti-slavery movement — and, with its help, slavery was gone in the United States on Juneteenth, 13 years later.
My hope is that books on the evils of racism will become required reading in high schools and colleges across the country. And maybe, just maybe, they will spawn that desperately needed national discourse I’ve described on the horrors of racism. If that happened, racism might just disappear from our American culture in, say, 20 years — or even sooner. Now wouldn’t that be something.