Gov. Sarah Palin is being sued in federal court, but the case isn’t about her expensive wardrobe, or any decision that she has made as governor. Palin is being sued for violating the law by failing to issue the 2007 Juneteenth Proclamation. While the lawsuit is frivolous, it does raise questions about Palin’s views on race, and how they may clash with RNC chairman Michael Steele’s plans to expand the GOP base.
For those of you who don’t know, which included me before I looked it up, Juneteenth, which I know as Freedom Day, is an official holiday in 29 states, that marks the freeing of the last remaining slaves on June 19, 1865. It became an official holiday in Alaska in 2001. The civil rights lawsuit was brought by Jazz musician Gregory Charles Royal who said, “The focus of this action is to hold Governor Palin accountable and to uphold the integrity of our emancipation holiday. Can you imagine the dangerous precedent of public officials deciding which legal holidays they choose to observe when carrying out their ministerial duties?”
Palin’s office called this a clerical error, and part of the relief that Royal is seeking is for Palin to apologize and retroactively issue the proclamation. Royal is also seeking $75,000 for losses to individuals and organizations because the holiday did not occur. Royal also might be looking for payback, because he claims that Palin made a racially disparaging remark about him while he was touring Alaska in 1990 with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
What I find most troubling is that Palin became the first governor to completely snub the celebration in 2008. Palin was the first governor not to participate. In fact, she didn’t even send anyone to represent her at the celebration. I believe that this is the exact attitude that Michael Steele is trying to change in the GOP. Republicans are never going to win over minority voters if their two tactics are to either infuriate them as they have done with Hispanic voters, or ignore them as they have done with African American voters.
Palin and Steele could be heading for a conflict when it comes to reaching out to minority voters, but Palin’s attitude is the dominant one in the GOP. Most Republicans aren’t that concerned about reaching out to minority voters. They still believe that their ideology sells itself. As far as this lawsuit is concerned, I suspect that Palin will issue an apology, and a retroactive proclamation. Royal is not going to get the money, but if this thing gathers any serious attention, Palin may have to put in an appearance at this year’s celebration.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association