Juneteenth and the Freedom It Unleashed
This OpEd was originally published in 2021.
Juneteenth. It’s a profound holiday that was known by relatively few until recently. I’ve written about it for years. It has special meaning to me for several reasons. Juneteenth (a mashup of June 19th) signified the nearly three-year delayed emancipation of 250,000 slaves in Texas who hadn’t yet received the news (even a month after the end of the civil war). It exemplified the hard-fought self-sacrifice of black and white brothers and sisters working together to end the evil of chattel slavery. It’s the anniversary date of the release of my book Not Equal: Civil Rights Gone Wrong which challenges today’s civil rights movement and its failure to defend the most marginalized and most vulnerable in our society. It’s also the date that my parents, even though I was conceived in rape, saw my inherent and equal value and chose to adopt and love me as their son.
And now, bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly by both the House (415-14) and the Senate (unanimous) establishes Juneteenth National Independence Day as a federal holiday. President Biden signed it into law. He probably should’ve taken the opportunity to praise Texas for taking the lead and officially making Juneteenth a state holiday four decades ago. The bill was offered by Democrat legislator Al Edwards and signed into law by Republican governor William Perry Clements Jr. in 1980.
I only wish that the alternative names used for Juneteenth would’ve become the official name, like Juneteenth Emancipation Day or Juneteenth Freedom Day. I think those names evoke the truer essence of this historical moment. I can see how this will be exploited by those whose propensity to divide us by color, class, or any other characteristic seems to know no end. (Just watch the House’ discussion of the passage of the legislation.)
Juneteenth doesn’t belong to one group of people. It belongs to all Americans. It’s a testament to the unity of both black and white people who went to great lengths to break the chains of bondage. It can be a great reminder to the American public and the world how the Democratic Party went to war to protect the evil of slavery, but a radical Republican named Abraham Lincoln altered the trajectory of a nation. No amount of 1619 revisionism can change that. Biden proclaimed at the bill signing: “Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments, they embrace them. We come to terms with mistakes we’ve made.” He kept invoking “equity” and “racial justice” but failed to seize the perfect moment to apologize on behalf of the Democrat Party’s pro-slavery DNA, inequalities and racial injustices. He didn’t. Instead, he nihilistically declared: “Hate only hides. It never goes away.”
I reject that. I’ve seen too many transformed people in my life to accept that hopeless lie. I believe too much in a God (notice, not a government) that truly transforms us into new creations.
Juneteenth commemorates the collective realization that our national creed, “created equal,” was becoming a (slow but assured) reality. That equality, because it’s not given to us by man or woman or governmental institution, should start at the moment we’re created—the moment of conception. Sadly, half the country doesn’t believe this today and supports another group of human beings being dehumanized and discriminated against for who they are. The unborn are violently treated like property, and just as with the institution of slavery, deemed less than human. Nothing good ever comes from denying any person’s humanity.
I don’t play the semantics game. Every person is a human. Every human is a person.
Juneteenth is about the emancipation of an entire nation–of freeing those previously shackled and preventing former shacklers from treating fellow human beings like property. It’s a reminder of the biblical principle that we’re created from one blood (Acts 17:26) implemented in the natural. Yes. We’re one beautifully colorful human race.
Major General Gordon Granger and 2,000 Union soldiers–many of whom saw so much loss and devastation in a nation at war with itself—delivered the delayed news that hundreds of thousands of slaves were no longer bound. Speaking the truth about emancipation was an extremely difficult journey for all involved in that sacred effort. Despite the existence of the telegraph in 1860s, obviously the message of liberation was ignored. Major General Granger traveled from place to place in Galveston, Texas in order to read General Order, No. 3 which proclaimed “all slaves are free.” He and the soldiers under his command had to bring the truth to the people. It’s tragic how many times we, as humans, choose to remain in chains that have already been broken.
The work of spiritual and ideological emancipation today, in light of so many broken worldviews that shackle millions, is no less arduous. To the abortion abolitionists out there, keep speaking the truth and rescuing wherever you go. To the anti-trafficking abolitionists out there, keep speaking the truth and rescuing wherever you go. To the ones who defend God’s design for humanity, keep speaking the Truth and rescuing wherever you go. Love is the ultimate chain-breaker. And God is Love.
May Juneteenth remind us that Hope is never in vain—even when things seem impossible. Keep holding tenaciously to your faith. Though the reward of Hope is often delayed, truth and freedom will make their way and break through.