OPINION: States Slow to Make Juneteenth a Paid Holiday - Arkansas Among Them

Two people in a car, one holds a Juneteenth sign outside for all to see.

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

By Zed

According to the Associated Press, many states are slow to make Juneteenth a paid holiday. The new federally recognized holiday finds an uphill battle to acceptance in a country that struggles to share Black history.

Juneteenth is a new US holiday that celebrates the month in 1865 that Black Texans where told they were free people.

The campaign of getting Juneteenth to be a holiday was lead by Opal Lee a native Texan and activist for the cause since the 1980’s.

President Joe Biden signed the order approving the holiday and recognizing Lee in 2021. Though some states have approved resolutions recognizing Juneteenth, the majority have let the issue stall or outright refuse to vote on it.

This reluctance to offer pay hits hardest in Black communities. Black people were deep among the frontline workers who carried the country through quarantine by continuing to perform most of the essential work to keep society going including tucking, health care, childcare, and transit.

In Arkansas, a chunk of the labor force is comprised of Black people who work in industries that don’t have traditional hours or recognize holidays. Providing compensation to those employees is one step towards repairing the damage of enslavement, racial terror, and discrimination.

Black Arkansans have not forgotten how much has been stole from them, despite the legacy of the Little Rock 9. It’s also important to note that Little Rock has not passed a resolution recognizing Juneteenth. Fayetteville, Arkansas passed an ordinance making Juneteenth a paid city holiday for city employees as recently as this year, 2022.

The problem is that most states do not consider their Black constituents. Tennessee senator Joey Hensley is quoted as saying that Juneteenth is a holiday that ” people don’t know about,” which works to completely erase the complicity of whites in the practice of enslaving Black people and Black people’s history of celebrating their freedom.

Last month, Illinois senator Bill Cassidy suggested ignoring 1/3 of his constituents because they are Black. Maybe he needs a CRT course.

The states who are slow to approve a budget are also the same states that have paid confederate holidays. Historically, states have been slow to approve holidays that celebrate Black people.

Arizona took 10 years to recognize MLK Jr day.

This is not so much a state problem as a federal government problem. The fed has been increasingly laissez faire when it comes to protecting the rights of marginalized communities, or in making strong statements against discrimination and racism.

This allows states to effectively disenfranchise minorities legally.

Juneteenth is one of two federal holidays that recognizes Black people in America, and this year is bittersweet as we contend with a rise in mass shootings, no-knock warrants, and voter suppression.