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After Denying Systemic Racism Exists, John Cornyn Plans to File Bill Making Juneteenth a Federal Holiday 

click to enlarge Republican Sen. John Cornyn said Thursday that he'll file a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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  • Republican Sen. John Cornyn said Thursday that he'll file a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who faced withering criticism this week for denying systemic racism is a problem, now says he plans to introduce bipartisan legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Juneteenth, celebrated every June 19, commemorates the day that news of the end of slavery reached Texas.

“As we do every year, tomorrow Texans will celebrate Juneteenth and the 155th anniversary of the end of slavery in our state,” Cornyn said during a floor speech Thursday.

Cornyn, who's up for reelection, isn't the only Texas lawmaker calling for Juneteenth to be a national holiday. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat, introduced a similar measure on Monday.

Where Cornyn differs from Lee, though — and there's no way to put this delicately — is that he doesn't exactly have a rep as an enlightened guy when it comes to matters of race.

The three-term incumbent made national headlines earlier this week for dismissing the idea that systemic racism is real during a Senate Judicial Committee hearing on police brutality.

His prickly exchange with former Justice Department official Vanita Gupta during that hearing prompted her to point out on Twitter that Cornyn — when he was Texas AG — gave a Lawman of the Year award to a corrupt Panhandle cop who ran a drug sting focused on putting away Black people.

What's more, Cornyn faced allegations of racism in March for claiming "Chinese culture" was to blame for the coronavirus pandemic. He appeared to base his theory on a debunked rumor that the outbreak began when someone ate bat soup.

Last month, State Sen. Royce West, who's in a Democratic runoff to challenge Cornyn, accused the incumbent's campaign of engaging in “dog whistle racism” by mocking him as “Restful Royce.” West, who's African American, said the nickname plays on stereotypes of Black people being lazy.

Cliff Walker, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, called Cornyn's proposed bill a "symbolic gesture."

"Juneteenth should be a national holiday, but if John Cornyn really wanted to address racial injustices, he would have to begin by acknowledging the existence of systemic racism in America's criminal justice system — something he refuses to do time and time again."

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