Jessie Balmert of the Cincinnati Enquirer and USA Today Network
“Ohio lawmakers took he first step toward making Juneteenth a paid state holiday.”
My first reaction to the Senate passing this piece of legislation by a 32-0 vote was “Do the state employees really need another paid holiday?” Then I wondered “How many paid holidays do they currently get?”
If you aren’t familiar with Juneteenth, you might find it interesting. It represents the day (June 19, 1965) “…Union Major Gen. Gordon Granger , arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that enslaved people were free.” This occurred nearly two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was passed.
The justification for this legislation was stated as:
“Ohioans need a time to reflect and use Juneteenth as a way to bridge gaps and divides between races and have discussions on how slavery itself influenced our society…”
“Bridge gaps and divides between the races”: We currently have Martin Luther King Day as a holiday. His message was one of racial harmony and his desire was a time when one’s character would be their defining trait, not their race. So it seems like we already have a paid holiday designed for this purpose, doesn’t it?
“…Have discussions on how slavery itself influenced our society…”: The last I checked, we have a whole month titled “Black History Month” designed to give us time to reflect on the African American’s experiences and contributions. So is one more paid holiday needed to accomplish this goal? It wouldn’t seem to be necessary.
As I reflected on the Ohio Senate’s action I couldn’t help but be confused. I can understand why Texas might adopt Juneteenth as a state holiday, but Ohio? Texas was a slave state so this was meaningful to them. Ohio NEVER was a slave state or territory! The last time slavery was legal in what is now Ohio is when it was Indian Territory and under British control. When it became part of the United States slavery was outlawed. It was an official part of the Northwest Territory authorization. When the Virginia Military District was opened for settlement, some came, at least in part because they abhorred slavery that was legal in Virginia. Two of those settlers were Thomas & Elanor Worthington. So why should we celebrate Texas history rather than Ohio history? It doesn’t make sense to me.
The timing of the Senate’s action is highly questionable. At this time many citizens are struggling because of the economic impact of the COVID-19 virus. The State’s budget is under stress and cuts are coming. And Ohio is having to borrow funds to maintain its unemployment benefits. Yet the Ohio Senate, by a 32-0 vote, decided that state employees should be given another tax payer paid holiday. Didn’t even one Ohio Senator see how insulting this would be to those struggling to make ends meet? Didn’t even one Ohio Senator think the timing was bad? Obviously they didn’t!
Maybe you should let your Ohio Senator know what you think about their legislation that would add an additional paid holiday for state employees. I did.