The travesty of another Juneteenth commemorating June 19, 1865, as African-American heritage day when the last slaves learned they were free is over. The slaves in Texas hearing from Union Army officers they were free may have been the last slaves freed by President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Nevertheless, they were not the last slaves freed, because slavery continued in parts of America not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation like Kentucky.
People disrespect their heritage with sham celebrations of false history. At minimum, one expects they would read the Emancipation Proclamation they cite as foundation for their heritage of freedom. No reader of the proclamation could mistake its terms as a mandate for ending American slavery. President Lincoln's proclamation did not declare the end of slavery in the United States, because the Constitution does not grant presidents this authority.
He wrote, "I Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, in time of actual armed rebellion against authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing the rebellion do. . . ." Then, he named the states in rebellion where the Emancipation Proclamation applied. He restricted its terms to states in rebellion against the United States. It did not affect slavery in other states like Kentucky, Delaware, and New Jersey that remained in the union. It even exempted sections of some Confederate states like the thirteen parishes in Louisiana and the seven counties in Virginia along with forty-eight other counties designated as West Virginia.
I do not deny the importance of the Emancipation Proclamation as a weapon against slavery or importance of the Juneteenth celebration as a symbol of freedom for Texans. However, Juneteenth as a national celebration of the ending slavery based on the Emancipation Proclamation distorts history and extent of federal power granted by the Constitution.
Lincoln knew his war powers ended with the defeat of the Confederacy and that slavery would likely continue where the Emancipation Proclamation had not applied and would rebound in the defeated Confederate States. He and some members of Congress wrote a proposed 13th Amendment outlawing slavery that Congress approved. Then, 27 of the then 36 States approved the 13th Amendment to the Constitution on December 6, 1865 and freed the last 40,000 or so slaves in Kentucky and other places in America.
People's misplaced reverence for the Emancipation Proclamation as the instrument of their freedom and end of slavery is distressing. I recall with mortification the decades that I held the simplistic belief of a magical document that freed all the slaves. I still believed this nonsense as a college graduate, because this is what schools taught and continue to teach. I learned differently from reading history outside school textbooks.
I was especial na?ve about the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation given that New Jersey, the State of my birth and upbringing, was a slave state exempted from its provisions. Additionally, states of New Jersey, Kentucky, and Delaware, not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation, voted in 1865 not to approve the 13th Amendment.
Although a bold move by Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation was only a meaningless paper promise of freedom that required Union Army victories to give it force. The history of 180,000 or so black-labeled soldiers in the Union Army fighting to enforce the proclamation's provisions of freedom is a more solid foundation for a heritage of freedom for people that rely on a race-based identity than commemorating Union officers telling slaves on a certain date they were free.
American society constructed illogical justifications for socioeconomic inequality based on race the past 236 years. However, a current federal directive describing White, but not Black, as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Africa is a racist rant of unbelievable absurdity.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB ) approved Directive No. 15, "Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting" on May 12, 1977. It defined basic racial and ethnic categories for Federal statistics and program administrative reporting as follows:
American Indian or Alaskan Native A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America, and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliations or community recognition.
Asian or Pacific Islander A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands. This area includes, for example, China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, and Samoa.
Black A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
Hispanic A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
White A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.
By use, Directive No. 15 defined race to mean a class of persons having origins in any of the original peoples of a continent or land area. It asserted this meaning in descriptions of American Indian, Asian, and White. However, it used a circular description for Black, "A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa." This description excludes Black as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Africa, or any place. It excludes from Black the descriptive meaning of being a race and suggests they are rootless people.
In contrast, Directive No. 15 describes White as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, Middle East, and North Africa. However, Middle East and North Africa are only Eurocentric labels for southwest areas of Asia and northern areas of Africa. Therefore, it describes White as a person having origins in any of original peoples of Asia with Asians and the only race having origins in the original people of Africa.
OMB Directive No. 15's admits, "These classifications should not be interpreted as being scientific or anthropological in nature. . . They have been developed in response to needs expressed by both the executive branch and the Congress to provide for the collection and use of compatible, nonduplicated, [sic] exchangeable racial and ethnic data by Federal agencies."
A theory has questionable logic that decides race classifications based on what people originally lived in certain places on earth. The disclaimer affirms that Directive No. 15 did not even have a scientific or anthropological basis for the meaning of race-deciding the original peoples of a continent or area. Therefore, government agencies spend billions of dollars reporting scientific interpretations of race data the directive says they should not interpreted as having scientific or anthropological support.
The human and money costs America allows from racial prejudice is irrational social policy. However, a social policy approaches mania when it intentionally creates those costs promoting racial prejudice based on race classifications the creator of the classifications says government should not interpret as being scientific or anthropological in nature.
The OMB reviewed the race directive in 1997. Nevertheless, it retained the Black and other descriptions despite some reviewers' recommendations for change. The Executive Department should repeal OMB Directive No. 15. Congress, State and local agencies should revoke all reports and analysis based on race classifications constructed without a scientific basis.