On Monday, the U.S. celebrated Juneteenth, a holiday that President Biden signed into law last year. The history of the holiday is that on June 19, 1865, Gen. George Granger proclaimed freedom for the enslaved people of Texas.
This ascension of the 11th federal holiday comes after African-Americans have acknowledged Juneteenth for more than 150 years.
In the 20th century, the federal government deemed Memorial Day (1971), Columbus Day (1937), Veterans Day (1938) and Thanksgiving (1941) and MLK Day (1983) federal holidays.
Now, with so many such holidays on the calendar, it’s worth asking a few questions, like:
Why is there no comparable Hispanic holiday?
Blacks make up roughly 41.6 million of the U.S. population and now have two federal holidays devoted to their cause: MLK Day and Juneteenth. Yet Hispanics comprised 62.1 million people in the U.S. population in 2020. That compares to a Hispanic population of 9.1 million in 1970, a more than sixfold increase in the past 52 years.
In lieu of a federal holiday, Hispanics have Hispanic Heritage Month (late September to mid-October). Oct. 12, Columbus Day, is also known as Dia de la Raza (Day of the Race), which could become a U.S. holiday celebrating Hispanics.
Given Columbus Day’s controversy -- some 38% of Americans polled in 2015 thought that Columbus Day should not be a holiday, and only 22% Americans named Columbus as the discoverer of America, while 39% named Native Americans -- it’s possible as the Hispanic population grows that Columbus Day will be recast as a holiday honoring Hispanic Americans.
And why is there no Asian-American holiday?
With a population of around 18.9 million, Asian-Americans comprise about 5.7% of the U.S. population. Yet the Asian-American population is currently the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S. It grew 81% since 2000. No Asian-American holiday currently exists, but some have proposed making the Lunar New Year a federal holiday. Rep. Grace Meng introduced a bill making Lunar New Year a federal holiday in January, but the bill has only a 2% chance of passage, according to Skopos Labs.
It seems likely that in the 21st Century, a recasting of Columbus Day as a day celebrating Hispanics and a Lunar New Year day celebrating Asian-Americans are both in the offing.