By Dr. Zekeh S. Gbotokuma

Upon signing the Juneteenth Bill on June 17, 2021 making JUNETEENTH a national holiday in the United States of America, the 46th POTUS Joe Biden invited all his fellow Americans to join him in reflecting on slavery’s “terrible toll.” To this end and in an effort to lead by the power of his example, he made truthful and thought-provoking statements, some of which would be interpreted as “divisive,” “offensive,” and controversial for the antagonists of Critical Race Theory (CRT) who have been very vociferous these days. Let us call them ‘un-critical race theorists’ (UCRTs). By the way, I owe the phrase “Un-Critical Race Theory” to The Nation’s June 18, 2021, article by Joshua Adams. Biden stated, among other things, “Juneteenth marks both a long hard night of slavery subjugation and a promise of a brighter morning to come.” The day is reminiscent of the “terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take. […]. Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments…they embrace them. […].  The promise for equality is not going to be fulfilled until it becomes real in our schools, on our main streets and in our neighborhood.” After refreshing our memory about Juneteenth other names and nicknames – Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day, and now National Holiday – VP Kamala Harris told another inconvenient truth about the American history, that is, the White House is a “house built by enslaved people.” She added that Juneteenth holiday should be an occasion to “reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to action.” These too, could be construed by the UCRTs as “divisive and offensive” statements, especially because they are made by the first liberal Afro-Asian American woman Vice President of the United States. 

I welcome Biden’s invitation to reflect on slavery a.k.a. “America’s original sin.” I do not mean to offend UCRTs. And of course, as founder of Polyglots in Action for Diversity, Inc. (PAD), I cannot afford to be “divisive.” Let me start my reflections by inviting all men and women of goodwill, freedom fighters and fair fighters to join me in congratulating, commending, and expressing sincere gratitude to Ms. Opal Lee, a.k.a. “GRANDMOTHER OF JUNETEENTH.” Yes, she deserves this title and more. Her relentless commitment to walking the long walk, 2.5 miles at the time, is a typical example of getting in “a good and necessary trouble” à la John Lewis. Lee saw something and said and did something that has allowed us to claim and proclaim, once again, We Shall Overcome. We Shall Breathe. Yes, We Can. We can “Build Back Better” together.

Conservatives’ growing opposition to Critical Race Theory (CRT), especially during and after Trump’s one-term divisive regime, is part and partial of their notorious anti-intellectualism and assault on science and reason, the like of which was apparent in Trump’s climate and COVID-19 denialism. During his 2020 presidential reelection campaign, Trump adopted the ‘southern strategy’ by saying and doing many things, including but not limited to his opposition to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that he labeled as “racist” and “divisive.” Moreover and more important, he showed his opposition to CRT by signing an Executive Order banning federal contractors from conducting racial sensitivity training. Fortunately, President Biden rescinded the ban on diversity training about systemic racism. Consistent with his “America is back” creed, he believes that “unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance and lies.” But making Juneteenth a national holiday while opposing CRT and without passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is absurd. It is like giving something with the left hand while taking it back with the right hand.

Making Juneteenth a national holiday while aggressively pursuing “Jim Crow 2.0 laws” intended to supposedly preserve the “purity of ballot box” (Texas) is a legal absurdity and a lack of moral compass in the 21st-century USA. This kind of behavior is at odds with the idea of America as “the first modern democracy” (Alexis de Tocqueville). Such pursuit is indicative of the unwise refusal to say mea culpa for America’s original sin. It is a stubborn refusal to learn the lessons of history, the teacher of life. 

In other words, the ongoing proliferation of big lie-based voter suppression laws is ‘un-Juneteenthful’excusez mon Globish (global English) – because it is an undemocratic, uncritical, unlawful, and unethical return to the dark ages of ethnocentrism and racism that resulted in Juneteenth. You can’t fight the so-called divisiveness of critical race theory with “Un-Critical Race Theory” that makes the celebration of Juneteenth as a national holiday a meaningless and empty symbol. As a member of the academic community committed to a world-ready education through #Cosmoportism – my philosophy of international education and global competency – I applaud the caring “Academic and literary groups blast Republican-led efforts to curtail race education” (Theresa Braine, Daily News, June17, 2021). This is one of the best possible ways to rescue CRT from UCRTs ridiculous assault and ‘cancel culture’. And this is the best way to make Juneteenth a meaningful national holiday for ALL American citizens. ‘Un-Critical Race Theory’ Is ‘Un-Juneteenthful’ because it is inconsistent with a country whose motto is, “E Pluribus Unum.”

Happy Juneteenth. Be safe and please remember to get vaccinated.

Dr. ZEKEH S. GBOTOKUMA earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Gregorian University and a post-doctoral diploma in International Studies from the Italian Society for the International Organization, all in Rome. He is the Founder & President of Polyglots in Action for Diversity, Inc. (PAD) & Associate Professor of Philosophy, Morgan State University. He is the author and editor of, among others, Democracy and Demographics in the USA (2020: Paperback: eBook:; Global Safari (2015); A Pan-African Encyclopedia (2003)

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