I’m glad the federal government is now recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. However, I understand it’s an issue that is complicated and divisive, like the framing of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights movements.
I was born to grandparents who had been born and raised in southern states, though I was raised in California, a “Yankee” state, by most accounts.
My public education in California uniformly revealed the Civil War as a human rights dispute. Only after moving to Texas in my 30s was the concept of “states rights” driven home, in part by my son, who was required to take Texas history four times from grade school to high school. By notable contrast, I never took a California history course in my entire education in California, from pre-school to graduate school. Furthermore, I’d never heard of Juneteenth until I’d lived in Texas for a decade.
Having lived in Texas for nearly 20 years and toured through the south, I now appreciate the cultural divide between those raised and educated in the Yankee states versus those raised and educated in the southern states. I also now appreciate the cultural dynamics in my family, between those raised in the south and those of us who were not.
That divide exists partly because, by my limited experience, states — or textbook authors or teachers — essentially lie by failing to tell the entire story of the history of slavery and the Civil War in the United States. In California, it was easy to dismiss the Civil War as “the south was wrong and now everything is ok”. In the south, it’s easy to dismiss the Civil War as “they bullied us, took away our livelihoods, gutted our economy, left us broke, and we’re never going to cooperate with them again”. While both positions are understandable and even appropriate when we conveniently leave out a hundred other details, neither is accurate, complete, or sufficient to find common ground for the unity that will be required to face the existential challenges this country will face in the future.
Until everyone has a common education, the gulf will remain wide because too few people have a sufficiently broad understanding to respect the difficulty and devastation the subject imposed on the country and all involved, from the Constitutional Convention and the War of Independence from England to the abolition of slavery, to the Civil War and beyond.
There is much healing to do, and it must start with a common, complete understanding of the complexities and realities of the history of our country. I respect the current leadership in D.C. for creating this additional opportunity for the country to come together for a complete understanding.
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