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.
But let’s be real.
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.
Many formerly enslaved people across the South became farmers — and, for the next century, they and their descendants were systematically denied bank loans and government assistance. Where were Hawley and the Republicans when Democrats, as part of the $1.9 trillion covid relief package, approved $5 billion in relief for Black farmers? They all voted against it. And where is the Republican outrage at the federal judge in Wisconsin who blocked those funds, claiming that to give the relief money — a pittance, compared to what was stolen from Black farmers over the decades — discriminates against White farmers?
Observing a new holiday is not the reckoning with systemic racism that so many Americans demanded following the murder of George Floyd. More than a year later, Democrats still have not been able to find 10 Republican votes in the Senate for a set of modest reforms in policing, including a ban on chokeholds. I accept that Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the body’s lone Black GOP member, is making a sincere effort to find votes. But I’ll believe they exist only when I see them.
Republicans who forthrightly reject former president Donald Trump’s lie that the election was stolen from him, such as Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), are ostracized. In dozens of states controlled by the GOP, legislatures are passing bill after bill aimed at purging voter rolls, curbing voter registration, and restricting voting hours and locations, all in ways clearly aimed at disenfranchising voters of color. These voters, not coincidentally, tend to vote for Democrats.
Worse yet, some states are trying to give their Republican-controlled legislatures the power to decide whether to essentially nullify election results because of alleged “irregularities.” Remember Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a conservative Republican who insisted that the state’s votes be counted fairly and resisted calls to somehow overturn Biden’s victory? The GOP is trying to put an end to that kind of integrity.
Speak up, Sen. Hawley. I can’t hear you.