Many on the left are attempting to use Juneteenth to push an anti-American agenda and racial division, but the holiday has always been a day for recognizing America as an exceptional nation, says the leader of the Heritage Foundation, a prestigious conservative think tank.
"Juneteenth is a perfect answer to those who are promoting critical race theory," Kay C. James, president of the Heritage Foundation, said in an interview with Fox News. "Juneteenth says, no, we do not need to destroy the very structures of this nation, the things that make us great. That while there were issues or problems in our history, look at how we overcame and are overcoming them."
June 19, 1865, also called Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, was the day Union soldiers enforced President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and freed all remaining slaves in Texas. It was two months after the South’s official surrender in the Civil War and two and a half years after the proclamation went into effect.
On Wednesday, Congress passed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday in a 415-14 vote in the House one day after the bill passed in the Senate.
The day represents a critical turning point in American history, said James. It was the day that America finally began to live up to one of its greatest principles: a nation devoted to liberty for all.
"For me and I hope for most Americans, it's a holiday that we can all celebrate because it says that we as a nation recognize that the institution of slavery was in absolute conflict with our very core principles and values from our founding, and that Americans fought an entire war to get rid of the institution of slavery," said James.
While some use Juneteenth to push their "Hate America" agenda, the conservative leader pointed out, Juneteenth is a day for recognizing the greatness of America: That, though flawed, America was built on humanity’s highest ideals and endowed with a constitutional framework that allowed it to right its wrongs throughout history.
"I do believe that there is a contradiction going on in the heart of many Americans right now," James said in regards to those who celebrate Juneteenth while also promoting ideas like critical race theory and the 1619 Project, which claim that America remains systemically racist.
James, a Black woman who has served as president of America’s leading conservative organization for three years, believes conservatives need to "step into this moment."
"This is not a moment that I shy away from in our American history and in our American culture," said James. "As conservatives, we believe in human flourishing. We believe in lifting people out of poverty, finding solutions to the education gap in this country. We know how to provide better access to health care."
"It's a privilege for me to speak out on a day like Juneteenth to say, ‘Would you give our ideas a look?’
"One of the biggest battles" facing conservatives in the debate over race in America "is separating out those individuals who say, ‘If you're against critical race theory, you therefore by default are a racist,’" said James. "We have to diffuse that.
"For anyone interested in having a genuine, sincere conversation about where we are as a nation - if you genuinely care about solving racial problems in America – ask a conservative to really explain to you why critical race theory is not appropriate."