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Why Juneteenth Matters Far More Today Than the Fourth of July
In your own mind, compare the oppressions suffered by whites in 1776 with those of African-Americans held in bondage in the years 1619-1865
Don’t get me wrong. The Fourth of July is vastly important to our history and also to navigating the ship of America into a bright future.
July 4, 1776, is the formal birth of our sustaining creed that all people are created equal, and it’s the magnificent moment in our collective past when the white founders declared the nation’s undying devotion to the “right to revolution”—that is, when and if a foreign or domestic enemy sets up arbitrary government, stripping us of our rights, we will not lie down. We will not cower. We will resist. We will stop at nothing to preserve the rule of law and our precious rights and freedoms.
I propose to you, however, that Juneteenth matters far more today than the Fourth of July for two reasons.
One is that we already understand and appreciate the importance of the Fourth of July. The same cannot be said for Juneteenth. This day of liberation is only newly on our minds. It hasn’t yet broken through into our hearts and consciences. So, we must embrace Juneteenth, learn about it, celebrate it, and wave its flag high overhead until we can say in good faith that Independence Day for African-Americans is equal to Independence Day for white Americans.
Second, we must open our eyes to the fact that the oppressions suffered by the roughly 1.5 million white inhabitants of the original thirteen colonies in the 1760s and 1770s, at the hands of the British Parliament and King George III, pales in comparison to the horrors suffered by enslaved people from 1619 until June 19, 1865 (there were roughly 4 million enslaved people by this date), when news arrived in Galveston, TX, announcing the end of the civil war—and the end of slavery.
Today, Juneteenth has an expanded meaning. It officially celebrates the end of slavery in the United States.
I am grateful and excited that we have at last reached this celebratory milestone in our history. It is long—at least a hundred years—overdue.