Black Americans don’t have to choose between Juneteenth and July 4th
There is a major schism brewing in our nation — the growing trend of black Americans choosing to celebrate Juneteenth in lieu of the 4th of July holiday. In our increasingly polarized nation, many appear to have forgotten that proud Americans may actually celebrate both.
Unfortunately, we have elected officials that have used their platforms to encourage disunity. In July 2021 Rep. Maxine Waters proclaimed that the Declaration of Independence was only for white men. That same year Rep. Cori Bush promoted the idea of celebrating Juneteenth instead of the July 4th holiday.
What both pols fail to understand is that without the Declaration of Independence, there would be no Juneteenth. And there would be no Juneteenth without the sacrifice of 350,000 white men of the Union Army from non-slave-holding states that died in the Civil War that led to the Emancipation Proclamation.
There are organizations using both holidays to divide the nation by insisting that America has been broken by systemic racism. And this helps no one — black or white.
In 2002, Gallup surveyed Americans from all backgrounds including African Americans. Seventy percent of respondents agreed that race relations in the US were somewhat or very good. Keep in mind, this was before the election of our first black president in 2008. But roughly a decade after President Barack Obama was re-elected for his second term, black and white Americans felt that race relations have taken a turn for the worse, dropping 20 points or more among both demographics.
During this period, there had been no policy-related changes, regulations or laws passed making it more difficult for black Americans to attend college, buy a house or obtain certain jobs. So what changed? Notably, the beginning of a now all-too-common narrative that police officers are targeting black men. When Harvard economics professor Roland Fryer conducted a study looking at officer shootings, he assumed his data would prove the existence of racial bias by police officers. Instead, he discovered the opposite. His findings and the research of many other academics demonstrated “there was no racial bias when officers fired on suspects — black suspects are actually less likely to be shot than other suspects.”
During this same time period, Americans have become less patriotic. A March 2023 Wall Street Journal/NORC poll revealed that the percentage of Americans that felt patriotism towards the US fell from 70% in 1998 to 38% in 2023. Why is this? In the past two decades, students have graduated from high school and college learning much of America’s supposed sins while attaining very little knowledge about its virtues. A recent national survey found that only 19% of American citizens under the age of 45 could pass the US citizenship test. In contrast, 75% of those age 65 and older could pass the exam.
I have a holistic view of America’s history – the good, bad and ugly. I am fully aware that after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, an entire century had to pass before we saw complete freedom for black Americans, including my parents. Today, however, there are millions who know little about the endless Americans – rich and poor; North and South – who helped newly freed slaves become productive citizens despite their racist detractors. People like Sears & Roebuck CEO Julius Rosenwald who worked with Booker T. Washington in the early 1900s to build 5,000 elementary schools throughout the southern states.
The greatest irony of this increasing divide is how often we hear leaders from academia, the media and entertainment industry disparaging such donors as racists or white supremacists. And they do so while state lawmakers, government bureaucrats and teachers union officials construct ever-higher barriers preventing poor and minority kids from having access to successful private and charter schools.
While some may argue that the sacrifices of the Civil War era and subsequent Reconstruction are ancient history, I offer a more recent example of America at its finest. I’m speaking of the decades of funding from predominantly white Christian and Catholic foundations that have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into private and charter schools for the nation’s inner-city predominantly Black and Latino youth. As Carl Campanile recently wrote, “charter schools in the US are significantly outperforming their traditional-public-school peers across the nation — and by particularly large margins in New York City and other urban areas.”
As someone that went to Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Harlem decades ago, the script we’ve been given of two Americas, two national anthems and two national holidays is not only wrong but dangerous. As prominent author, professor, and former Pastor Voddie Baucham recently stated, “black Americans are the freest and most prosperous black people in the world.” Sadly, many among us choose to conveniently ignore this fact — and the facts about what it took to get us here. So yes, let’s celebrate Juneteenth as long as we understand that it all started with July 4th.