Friday, June 19, 2020

National Holiday

There is a movement afoot to make Juneteenth a National Holiday. People likely think this is free, and is just a nice way to show African-Americans that we care about them.  Who could be against that?  You wouldn't want to be against that, would you?  That would be unkind, impolite, and racist.

Articulate what Martin Luther King Day is for.  The first meanings of that verb are "utterance," "putting into clear words," and that's what I mean.  If you want Juneteenth, you should first have to put into words what MLK/Civil Rights Day is for, not just think about them vaguely and have a feeling. Only then can you go on to describe how Juneteenth is different and brings something new to the table.

I'll just wait here while you scratch some things on the page and imagine delivering those words before an audience.  They have contests for that, don't they, asking schoolchildren to write speeches about what that holiday is about?  What do they say, do you think? 

When you have finished that, scratch down some percentages of what a new federal holiday will cost businesses and governments which would then have to pay people to stay home, or at minimum pay them a higher wage. Describe to me where that money will come from. As a starting point, people work 5 days/week for 52 weeks, minus ten days vacation minus fifteen holidays minus sick days - about two weeks. Call it 225 days a year. Back of the envelope is fine.

Now remember that this will feel good to do but have only psychological effects on people who really dig this stuff.  There will be no improvement in policing, or schools, or job prospects, or city infrastructure, or, well anything. Hispanics might rightfully wonder why they got left out.  At least "Civil Rights" applies to everyone, at least in theory.


Donna B. said...

Since I lived in or within 10 miles of Texas for 49 years, the idea of Juneteenth being a national holiday sounds a bit absurd to me. I wonder if people outside of Texas are confusing it with the Emancipation Proclamation itself. Frankly, I don't get it, but that's not unusual. I do think that if I were black, I'd be a bit perturbed at white people "appropriating" my holiday. That surprises me, because I'm not all that fond of criticizing cultural appropriations. This one seems different and I can't quite put my finger on why.

DOuglas2 said...

On the one hand, Kings dream of non-discrimination and justice is passé in academia, with strong voices asserting that equality is unfair and equity is needed, and that justice is inadequate and social-justice is needed. In their view, celebration of King is celebration of the attitudes that sustain their oppression. Citizens of the same mindset are the ones who are trying to get repeal of 1996 California Proposition 209 onto the ballot, to legalize discrimination against Asians in public employment, contracting, and education in California.

On the other hand, although racial-discrimination and enforced segregation are illegal since the 1964 Civil Rights act (which very likely would not have passed without MLK's activism), that doesn't mean that the policy change was efficacious at achieving justice, freedom, equality, and fairness. We see in places like Fergeson that the antipathy of the minority community towards the police and city may be expressed in reaction to specific incidents (which may have a mythology that differs from what actually happened), but have roots in a long train of abuses and usurpations, amongst which are the city sending hither swarms of Officers to harrass the people, subjecting them to unpayable fines where the ongoing consequences of both fines and non-payment fall hardest on those least able to pay them.

In this year already we've seen federal criminal justice reform which surprisingly looks like small steps in the right direction for once. We've seen wide recognition that police powers are abused in violation of citizens rights, and will as a result get big changes (let us hope for the better). So I'd submit that another freedom/emancipation holiday might be warranted in addition to the existing 3, in recognition of either the advances since the civil-rights act(s) or in hope that the remaining areas of oppression are getting attention.

Reagan was against MLK day before it was enacted, on cost reasons, but signed it happily and gave nice proclamations full of meaning each time it repeated on his watch.

Aesthetically I'd prefer such a holiday to be more directly linked either to the 1st emancipation proclamation OR to the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, because in my view the first Juneteenth had effect in only an area that at the time was a backwater. But it has meaning, and that meaning hasn't as yet been usurped or corrupted as some think the MLK holiday has been.

Donna B. said...

DOuglas2 said... "because in my view the first Juneteenth had effect in only an area that at the time was a backwater. But it has meaning, and that meaning hasn't as yet been usurped or corrupted as some think the MLK holiday has been."

Ahh, corrupted! I think that might be my objection.

bs king said...

To your second point, the idea I heard batted around was to do away with Columbus Day and replace it with Juneteenth instead. If you want to flip your exercise, try to defend why one is more important for us to celebrate nationally than the other.

Personally, timing-wise I love the idea of a holiday that celebrates freedom happening almost exactly two weeks before our current big holiday that celebrates freedom. It seems like something really interesting could be done with those two weeks to remind people what the concept of freedom means to different people, and how the concept itself evolved in our country. I mean obviously my pipe dreams won't happen, but there's nothing from stopping say Reason Magazine from doing a 2 week freedom series every year, capping it off on July 4th.

Christopher B said...

All this practical economic stuff is a *feature* to the people making this proposal. Reparations in another form. Marking the slow reintroduction of segregation in various forms has been recurring theme on Instapundit since I've been reading him starting in 2001. So much for MLK.

It's an information operation. The effect is intended to be psychological.

DirtyJobsGuy said...

As a Private Sector employer, all the “extra” holidays like Columbus Day, MLK day etc. are something public sector employees get. So the meaning is diluted and made a subject of jokes. The other holidays lost meaning by making them “bank holidays” on monday so its just another day off. The nineteenth century model of a day with a parade, topical speeches and a big picnic has largely been abandoned. We lost a lot (in principle) when Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays were made an anodyne Presidents Day. Washington who sheparded the nation out of a potential Kingship and showed the leader can and should step down from office must be permanently remembers. And Lincoln as the articulator of the great moral purpose of constitutional government and the inhumanity of slavery is in the same class.

bs king said...

Okay, so after I made my Columbus Day comment, I realized I actually had no idea why that got on the calendar and I went and looked it up on Wiki. I have no other source for this other than the Wiki page so someone weigh in if they know better, but this is what it says about the first national celebration:

"For the 400th anniversary in 1892, following a lynching in New Orleans where a mob had murdered 11 Italian immigrants, President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day as a one-time national celebration.[9][10] The proclamation was part of a wider effort after the lynching incident to placate Italian Americans and ease diplomatic tensions with Italy"

It didn't become a regular federal holiday until 1968, apparently due to ongoing lobbying by various Italian-American groups. So that would be a fascinating swap actually.

GraniteDad said...

I’d gladly trade Columbus Day for Juneteenth.

I wish it was still called civil rights day instead of MLK day.

Ben Wyman said...

I also wish that it was called Civil Rights Day instead of MLK day, since it means that every year we focus entirely on the impact of MLK himself and lose sight of the entire battle fought by thousands of people, or the rest of the history of the Civil Rights movement that would be important to remember, or the current problems with civil liberties that should be addressed. Instead, we just listen to clips from the “I Have A Dream” speech again.

I understand how we got here - NH had Civil Rights Day, and was celebrated by white nationalists for not having it be MLK Day, and there aren’t a lot of politicians who want to stand around and say “with all respect to MLK, I think this is better” when people are calling them a racist.

DOuglas2 said...

Columbus day is an interesting item. I've got many friends who are firmly on the BLM side who are quite gung-ho about getting rid of Columbus statues and names (but not for Columbia University, as that would dilute the value of their diploma. . .), and I've had many occasions to push down the urge to say snarkily "so you don't know why the Columbus statues are there in the first place?"

I think Columbus Day and Columbus statues are a great reminder that America CAN put discrimination behind us. It's origin was less about Columbus than about the position of those with Italian origin or parentage within our culture. Of course, unlike the slaves who were brought involuntarily and the indigenous Americans who were pushed out of ancestral lands, the Italians, even the ones who came via the Padrone system, came either of their own volition or because pushed by their own families. So their situation is not entirely parallel, and indeed they had the freedom to 'go back' and a real place to 'go back' to, an option which many of that time chose in favor of permanent immigration.

I suspect that within a decade schoolchildren will know that Indigenous People's day is also when Italian heritage organizations have their Columbus day parades, and that will be that.

David Foster said...

"When you have finished that, scratch down some percentages of what a new federal holiday will cost businesses and governments which would then have to pay people to stay home, or at minimum pay them a higher wage."

It's actually harder than it sounds. The relationship between hours worked and productive output is complex. If you're a worker in a factory or an Amazon warehouse, it's probably pretty linear until you reach the stage of utter exhaustion. For engineers or programmers or marketing/sales people, it's less obvious.

And, of course, some jobs require continuous coverage...nurses, air traffic controllers, for example.

Purely as a guess, I'd project that a 2% reduction in hours worked would lead to a 1% reduction in economic output. Some companies would be affected a lot more than others.

Jonathan said...

Cheap absolution for easily guilted UMC whites, another paid day off for Democrat-voting govt employees, everyone else foots the bill. It's a nice holiday but so is Passover.

Texan99 said...

Stop genuflecting to the wrong people, and start genuflecting to the right ones!--or else.

Grim said...

We can cancel President’s Day to save money.

MLK Day is to honor MLK. The purpose of honoring a man is to show respect for him and what he accomplished. In finding that we all respect him, we find that we share values that unify us as a people. Honor thus turns out to be perhaps the most important value in a republic.

Grim said...

That one I hope we might replace with Leif Erikson Day.

Grim said...

Or, perhaps, “most important virtue.”

JMSmith said...

I had never heard of Juneteenth until I moved to Texas 30 years ago, and it would be wrong to say it is a big deal here, even among ordinary Blacks. I've done a little research into the origins of the holiday, mainly reading what old local newspapers had to say about it. It began in Galveston because that is where the Emancipation Proclamation was read on June 19, 1865, but it was spread to other places as part of the 1869 gubernatorial campaign of Samuel Davis, a radical Republican (and former Union general) who needed the Black vote. I'm not saying that Juneteenth was "astroturf," but the spread of Juneteenth from Galveston to the whole state cannot be fully understood without understanding the politics of Reconstruction.

By the 1880s, Texas politics had changed and there were no Republicans organizing Blacks into a voting bloc. In the town where I live, Juneteenth became the occasion for a picnic and a parade, a sort of Black Fourth of July. Reports in our local newspaper were good natured, normally praising the speeches and parade, and expressing satisfaction that a good time was had by all. It is now a State holiday, which means that government workers get another holiday ordinary folk don't, and that politicians and public figures are given an occasion to signal their virtue with public pronouncements on the meaning and unfulfilled promises of Juneteenth. I say let the Blacks have their picnics and parades, but do not give public employees another day off, or politicians another opportunity to make vacuous virtue signals.

Texan99 said...

Maybe "big deal" is going too far, but as a kid in Texas schools I was always aware of it each year. There would be some kind of event, and I remember having it explained to me how the date came about by the delay in the announcement. Since it was an accident of communications peculiar to Texas at that point in history, it seemed like a celebration very specific to Texas.

JMSmith said...

There may have been a delay of days in some inland districts, but the general order was issued the minute Union troops landed in Galveston on June 19, 1865. For anyone interested, here is the text of the order issued by General Granger.

“The people of Texas are informed in accordance with a proclamation from Executive of the United States ‘all slaves are free.’ This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quiet at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

Christopher B said...

Regarding who gets the day off - the NYSE is clised both MLK and Columbus Day (and President's Day) so many businesses tied to the market are closed, too.