Juneteenth should be a national holiday.

No debate about that is necessary because everyone in this country agrees that slavery is bad and the end of that crime against humanity was good.

Declaring Juneteenth—June 19—a national holiday makes sense. That date in 1865 marks the day that the remaining slaves were told of the Emancipation Proclamation and that they are free.

Local businesses united to host a Black Business Crawl on June 19 to commemorate the day, which is a state holiday or day of observance in 46 states, including Illinois, as well as Washington, D.C.

According to CNN, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution last year recognizing “Juneteenth Independence Day” as a national holiday, but it has not yet been approved by the House of Representatives.

Making June 19 a national holiday won’t convert racists into welcoming members of society. But, it is a step toward badly needed progress.

The United States observes 10 national holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, George Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Juneteenth is Independence Day for black Americans—and their fellow citizens should celebrate that fact. 

Columbus Day, some people believe, should no longer be a federal holiday. While the Italian master navigator certainly played an important role in the creation of the U.S., it seems inappropriate to honor a man whose discovery resulted in the genocide of thousands of indigenous people.

Columbus is among the many notable figures around the country memorialized by statues, despite their questionable histories. As protestors targeted such statues, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she wants statues of Columbus to remain in place in Chicago to provide educational perspective.

Statues aren’t erected to document history—they celebrate people involved in historic moments. Statues celebrating Confederate generals should come down. It is easy to understand how uncomfortable they make black people feel, if not angry and excluded. Critics claim that removing these statues will obscure history—alas, that is where schools, the internet and history books come in.

Mississippi officials announced on June 29 that their state flag will longer include the symbol from the Confederate flag. It’s another common-sense decision that supports race relations.

It’s time for Juneteenth to be a national holiday. The date honors the first step of our nation along the continuing path toward racial equality.

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