President Joe Biden signed legislation commemorating Juneteenth as a national holiday, but it comes against the backdrop of GOP voter suppression, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson explained on Thursday.
"Making Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day news of emancipation finally reached enslaved people in Galveston, Tex., a national holiday is a victory. But it is a hollow one at a moment when the political party that won the Civil War and made that freedom a permanent reality is now moving heaven and earth to keep African Americans from voting," he explained.
"All but 14 House Republicans were happy to vote for the long-overdue legislation adding June 19 to the holiday calendar, signed Thursday by President Biden. Doing so allows them to portray themselves as opponents of racial oppression, which they prefer to leave in the past — rather than as contemporary racism's enthusiastic enablers," he wrote. "In the Senate, the Juneteenth legislation even had the sponsorship, no less, of the likes of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who infamously raised his fist in solidarity with the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. Their aim, which Hawley endorsed, was to overturn the 2020 election by invalidating swing-state votes cast largely by people of color in cities such as Atlanta, Philadelphia and Phoenix."
The context matters.
"Supporting the Juneteenth holiday is a gesture that lets Republicans pretend to acknowledge the nation's original sin of slavery even as they insist that racism is confined to our national past. At the same time, however, Republicans across the country — egged on by Fox News and the right-wing media chorus — are trying to pass laws barring schools from teaching the factual history of racism and white supremacy in this country under the guise of attacking 'critical race theory,' a set of academic concepts they stripped of its original meaning and context," Robinson wrote. "If Republicans want to convince us they are sincere in their stirring words about the importance of Juneteenth, let's see them sign on to the voting-rights legislation that passed the House and now is being considered in the Senate. If they don't like that bill, let's see them come up with one of their own to protect the right of every American to vote. Speak up, Sen. Hawley. I can't hear you."
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