We’re proud of Gov. Andy Beshear for signing a proclamation Thursday recognizing Juneteenth, a day that commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free 155 years ago.
His action sends the signal across the country that Kentucky hears the calls to examine racial inequality and make changes needed to make life better for African Americans.
“During these times when again we have heard voices and we have seen the frustration of hundreds of years of ramifications of slavery, discriminations, Jim Crow, of segregation, I think it’s more and more important that we remind everybody of this dark chapter in our history and that its impacts continue to linger,” Beshear said. “We should celebrate the dates that at least portions of that dark chapter ended.”
Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas in 1980, and a number of other states subsequently followed suit. The day is also celebrated outside the United States, with organizations in a number of countries using the day to recognize the end of slavery and to celebrate the culture and achievements of African Americans.
Unfortunately, Juneteenth has remained a holiday that dwelled in obscurity among white Americans, even though it was established 40 years ago. This year was different. Awareness was high and the day was filled with protest as well as celebration.
The end of slavery is an event all humanity should celebrate. Not only does it mark the rights of a people being restored and an end to institutional cruelty, it marks a time of enlightenment for others and a time that indicates hope that society is on the road to betterment.
Again, unfortunately, it took a pandemic that highlighted health-care inequity, along with unnecessary death after unnecessary death of black Americans by police officers and worldwide protests to cause mainstream America to reach its tipping point on racism and, eventually, learn about Juneteenth.
Beshear’s proclamation recognizing Juneteenth doesn’t make it a state holiday, but the governor said he plans to encourage lawmakers to pass a bill next year making it so. That should be one issue both parties can easily come together on.