Congress has seemed to have been trapped in gridlock for ages. It started during the Obama era, during with then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was open about blocking as much Democratic legislation as he could. And it’s thought to be even worse now, when McConnell has returned to that role, and now has some help from waffling Democrats. But on Tuesday, the entire Senate, at least, came together to pass a bill that will do at least a small amount of good.
According to The New York Times, the government body unanimously passed a bill to turn Juneteenth, aka the 19th of June, into a federal holiday, after it was put on the floor by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
I just put a bill on the floor of the Senate from @SenMarkey and @SenTinaSmith to make #Juneteenth a federal holiday.
It passed the Senate!
Next up: It should pass the House. Then to President Biden’s desk for signature.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) June 15, 2021
Otherwise known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth commemorates an important though disturbing date in American history: It’s the day, in 1865, when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas — the most remote of the slave states — and informed still enslaved African-Americans that they’d been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Granger was a little late: The bill had been signed into law almost two-and-a-half years prior.
Over a century and a half later, in 1980, Texas became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday. The day earned greater significance this time last year, due to the Black Lives Matter protests that emerged in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was later convicted of the crime.
The bill still has to make its way to the House, though a unanimous vote in the famously split Senate is a harbinger of good news. If/when passed, Juneteenth will be the 11th official federal holiday on the books.
The passing of the bill was met with much rejoicing.
WATCH: The Senate unanimously passes a bill establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday. The bill now heads to the House. https://t.co/d4QlSgRK0L pic.twitter.com/coJO0k881P
— ABC News (@ABC) June 15, 2021
Unanimously passed in the Senate, on its way to the House, and then President Biden’s desk, Juneteenth is THISCLOSE to being a national holiday.
About damn time.
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) June 15, 2021
But it was also met with some skepticism. Some thought it was a small measure that will turn the day into one for white people to do the bare minimum.
We’re going to have big corporatized Juneteenth celebrations where discussion of ongoing structural racism is considered political & a detraction from the focus on how the white Union army freed us.
— DEFUND & ABOLISH POLICE, REFUND OUR COMMUNITIES (@BreeNewsome) June 16, 2021
Some pointed out that Juneteenth was getting federal recognition at the same time that Critical Race Theory was being shut down in Republican states.
The humor of America making Juneteenth a national holiday when they’re banning people from teaching about it in schools is not lost on me
— maybe: Phillip (@MajorPhilebrity) June 15, 2021
There were other issues, too.
So the Senate can vote unanimously to make Juneteenth a holiday but can’t pass the Anti-Lynching bill? pic.twitter.com/z89ZFChby3
— chris evans (@chris_notcapn) June 15, 2021
I can already envision a Black DoorDash or Amazon employee delivering packages to a white salaried nonprofit worker who has Juneteenth off
— #HasBenAndJerrysTweetedYet (@telushk) June 15, 2021
Some, though, had some suggestions on how people — particularly people of color — can celebrate the day, which is arriving this Saturday.
all black should be off work for Juneteenth and everybody else should go to work. pic.twitter.com/VCmCmEGSoa
— brianavision (@imnotbri_) June 15, 2021