National holidays serve as official acknowledgements of the sacrifices made by our forefathers, many of whom fought and died for the freedoms afforded by our democracy. Juneteenth this week became an official national holiday.
Peniel Joseph, professor of history at the University of Austin, has long called for Juneteenth to be commemorated as a national federal holiday. “Commemorating Juneteenth would spur not only conversation about the origins of our current racial and political conflicts, but would also prompt vitally necessary education about white supremacy and its manifestations in policies and political actions that are anti-black, anti-democratic and anti-human,” Joseph wrote in an op-ed for CNN last year.
KCRW’s Jonathan Bastian talks to Joseph about how the death of George Floyd not only marked a turning point in the fight for racial justice in America, but also re-energized the debate around Black people’s place in America’s history. Juneteenth, he says, is an important reminder of “the pitfalls and shortcomings” that are an integral part of American history and identity.