Juneteenth Is a Celebration for Everyone

Plus: Fentanyl copaganda, the perils of antitrust populism, a January 6 meme is born, and more...


A lot of people celebrated Juneteenth before the summer of 2021, but President Joe Biden last year declaring it a national holiday pushed this celebration of slavery's end into a much bigger spotlight. And Americans seem to still be struggling with what Juneteenth celebrations should mean.

Juneteenth—"America's other Independence Day"—marks the day in 1865 when enslaved black people in Galveston, Texas, learned that the Civil War had ended and they were officially free. Major General Gordon Granger delivered the news—some two months after the end of the Civil War and two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Ever quick to capitalize on new marketing opportunities, a lot of businesses are now launching Juneteenth-related merchandise, promotions, and events—and kicking off debate about whether this is merely eye roll–inducing or outright crass and wrong.

Meanwhile, states are still divided on whether government offices should be shut down on Juneteenth and whether public workers should get a paid holiday. "This year, nearly 20 states are expected to close state offices and give most of their public employees time off," notes NPR. "At least six states officially adopted the holiday over the past few months, including Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, South Dakota, Utah and Washington." Other state proposals to do the same have failed, including in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Nonetheless, parades, concerts, and other events have been started in cities across the U.S., including many that formerly did not mark the occasion. This is giving more Americans than ever the opportunity to learn about and honor Juneteenth.

But aside from the basic history of the day, what should Americans learn and honor? Is this a day for black Americans—and black Americans only—to celebrate? For white Americans to reflect on and repent for predecessors' transgressions (or at least buy stuff from black-owned businesses)? For everyone to come together and appreciate how far the country has come? On social media, these questions have been a matter of hot debate.

An underlying question is whether Juneteenth is a day to condemn America of yore for its wrongs, or a time to praise its ability to course-correct.

"Juneteenth is more than a holiday. It is not just a commemoration of the end of slavery. It is a day that celebrates America's incredible capacity to self-correct by applying the timeless principles at our country's core," the woman known as "the grandmother of Juneteenth," Opal Lee, writes in a Washington Post op-ed co-authored with Baptist pastor DeForest "Buster" Soaries.

In the op-ed, they worry that Juneteenth celebrations will "fall prey to the division and distraction that are tearing America down" when, "by all rights, Juneteenth should be a day of great unity." They suggest that "Juneteenth asks Americans to recognize that our nation's principles are neither grossly hypocritical nor naively aspirational. We have inherited lofty yet practical ideals, and it falls to us to implement them as best we can,"

"Juneteenth ain't a Black thing, not a Texas thing. It's about freedom for everybody," Lee told Time.

"Juneteenth is a civic reminder to pause and appreciate how far the nation has come," writes Theodore R. Johnson of the Brennan Center for Justice. "If Independence Day on July 4th is a day to honor all the nation got right, Juneteenth is a call to always right the things it gets wrong."

Some activists are taking the day to remind Americans about wrongs the country is still perpetuating, including incarcerated people being forced to work for little or no pay.

The "End the Exception" campaign aims to put a stop to this. "People who are incarcerated and detained across our country are disproportionately Black and brown and forced to work for little to no pay under the threat of additional punitive measures, such as the loss of family visits and solitary confinement," states its website.

A new American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report called "Captive Labor: Exploitation of Incarcerated Workers" explores prison labor practices in the U.S.

"From the moment they enter the prison gates, incarcerated people lose the right to refuse to work," notes the ACLU. "This is because the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects against slavery and involuntary servitude, explicitly excludes from its reach those held in confinement due to a criminal conviction. The roots of modern prison labor can be found in the ratification of this exception clause at the end of the Civil War, which disproportionately encouraged the criminalization and effective re-enslavement of Black people during the Jim Crow era, with impacts that persist to this day."


More cop hysteria about supposed secondhand exposure to fentanyl, this time in Kansas City. Police claimed they had to give an officer five doses of Narcan spray to stop the "overdose" after the officer touched fentanyl-laced pills.

"PSA: If you give 20 mg of naloxone and they're still not better then it's because they weren't opioid toxic. Hope this clears that up!" tweeted Ryan Marino, a medical toxicologist, emergency physician, and addiction medicine specialist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

The idea that police are frequently harmed by incidental exposure to fentanyl—by being near it, or briefly touching it—has become a popular urban legend and "copaganda" (police-derived propaganda) in recent years. See also: "Why Do the Media Keep Uncritically Repeating Implausible Police Fentanyl Overdose Stories?"


"Antitrust populists seek to deploy antitrust law for redistributive purposes to achieve 'fair' outcomes," writes University of Southern California law professor Jonathan M. Barnett in a new op-ed at The Hill:

In place of the prevailing approach to antitrust law, which demands hard evidence of competitive harm, antitrust populists tend to offer platitudes about non-economic values that are not amenable to objective assessment and sometimes fall outside the plausible bounds of competition policy. This willful abandonment of evidentiary rigor for regulatory fiat may be precisely the point. By adopting subjective principles that cannot be objectively assessed, enforcers would be relieved from having to prove very much at all before taking action against an allegedly anticompetitive practice.

Pending policy initiatives threaten to convert the largest digital platforms into quasi-utilities governed by regulators that are unbound by the safeguards imposed by the consumer welfare standard and the rule-of-reason test. That approach would enable regulatory micromanagement and discourage the entrepreneurship that drives the U.S. innovation economy. It may not be an accident that the U.S., which has operated under an antitrust regime with a high evidentiary threshold for intervention, is the home of almost every global tech leader (outside China), while Europe, which has operated under an antitrust regime with a substantially lower evidentiary threshold, is the home of almost none.

Antitrust reform reflects legitimate concerns over the inherent tendencies of digital markets to converge on a handful of leading providers. However, the wholesale dismissal of institutional safeguards against enforcement error risks converting the U.S. economy into an administered market in which winners and losers are selected by regulatory discretion rather than competitive forces. That is not what antitrust law is about.


Updates from the third public hearing of the House Select Committee investigating January 6:

•  President Donald Trump and his aides "knew that it was not legal for his vice president, Mike Pence, to attempt to thwart Joe Biden's victory on Jan. 6, 2021, but they nonetheless mounted an unrelenting pressure campaign that did not abate even after rioters stormed the Capitol and threatened Pence's life," The Washington Post sums up from yesterday's hearing.

• Trump lawyer John Eastman took the lead on this push. On January 11, 2021, he sought a preemptive pardon from Trump for his role in all this. In an email to Rudy Giuliani, Eastman wrote: "I've decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works."

• Eastman's emailed statement has quickly become a Twitter meme:


• A former lawyer for Pence said the former vice president never considered acquiescing with Trump's demands not to certify the Electoral College results.


• The American Medical Association has "adopted policy recognizing that it is a violation of human rights when government intrudes into medicine and impedes access to safe, evidence-based reproductive health services, including abortion and contraception."

• A Maryland attorney is accusing the FBI of inflating marijuana arrests in its Uniform Crime Reporting data.

• "The F.D.A. appears poised to authorize Moderna's vaccine for children younger than 6 and Pfizer's for those younger than 5 as soon as Friday," according to The New York Times.

• Cryptocurrency exchange Kraken invites employees offended by company culture to take a buyout.

• "The Department of Justice on Wednesday formally asked a federal court to limit the scope of baseball's antitrust exemption, the latest challenge to a century-old Supreme Court decision cherished by major league owners but increasingly criticized beyond the commissioner's office," reports the Los Angeles Times.

• Five Texas cities will have marijuana decriminalization on their ballots this fall.

• Overheard in D.C.:

• What could go wrong?