Joe Biden is scheduled to sign a bill establishing a Juneteenth federal holiday on Thursday.
In a speech delivered on the floor of the House on Wednesday, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) spoke in opposition to legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday, arguing that it would force Americans to celebrate independence based on "racial identity."
The bill, entitled the "Juneteenth National Independence Day Act," will create a federal holiday marking the date in 1865 that the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced by federal troops in Galveston, Texas. It passed by a unanimous vote in the Senate on Tuesday.
"Naming this day National Independence Day will create confusion and push Americans to pick one of those two days as their independence day based on their racial identity," said Massie, who is white. "Why can't we name this 'Emancipation Day' and come together as Americans and celebrate that day together as Americans, Black, white, all colors, all races, all ethnicities."
Emancipation Day is the name of an existing holiday marked in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the official end of slavery in the city on April 16, 1862.
The bill on Juneteenth does not pit the holiday against any other.
It overwhelming passed the House by a vote of 415-14, with 13 other Republicans joining Massie in voting against it.
Some of them made comments echoing Massie's claim that the bill is divisive.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who recently headlined a white nationalist conference, said in a statement, "Our country is divided, and the cultural and political Marxists are continuing their relentless efforts to divide this country further. Juneteenth is more debunked Critical Race Theory in action."
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) tweeted, "If you want to call Juneteenth, for example, Freedom Day or Emancipation Day then fine – that's certainly worth considering. But calling it Independence Day is WHOLLY INAPPROPIATE [sic]."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.