In acknowledgement of the federal holiday Juneteenth, or African American Emancipation Day, a blog post by the Republican Party of Kenosha County (RPKC) gives their party credit for the abolition of slavery. And while it's factually correct that the Republican Party of the 1860s advocated for and enacted emancipation legislation, that is far from the entire story.

By focusing only on their role in Juneteenth when it comes to America's racial history, the RPKC leaves out vital context and important events that have happened in the 161 years since that time. And importantly, they ignore what is happening today.

The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves and was signed by Republican President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. However, it could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control. As a result, in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas, enslaved people would not be free until June 19, 1865, when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army announced that the more than 250,000 still-enslaved Black people in the state were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as Juneteenth by the newly freed people in Texas.

On June 19, 2021 President Joe Biden signed a law making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Biden's honoring of Juneteenth was protested by some of today's Republicans, like Charlie Kirk.

So if Republicans were instrumental in abolishing slavery, what changed?

Political Party History: The Great Switch

During the Great Depression, the two political parties went through an ideological shift, referred to as The Great Switch. The Republican Party and Democratic Party flipped their positions on racial justice, labor rights and many other core issues to their platforms.

In 1854, the Republican Party was founded in the Northern United States by forces opposed to the expansion of slavery. The Republicans of 161 years ago were more liberal in their policies than the Democrats of that time, who were staunchly conservative.

However, during the Great Depression, which lasted from 1929 to 1939, both parties went through an ideological flip, referred to by historians as the Great Switch.

Americans elected Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 to lead the country out of the Depression. By that time, the Democratic Party had flipped to become the more liberal party, advocating for fair wages, union protections, affordable housing, consumer protections, job creation, Social Security, and more.

FDR's opponents supported policies that put the interests of the wealthy and business owners over that of working Americans, benefitting wealthy White Americans maintained control of most businesses and institutions.

That ideological switch is easily recognizable by some core aesthetic markers today - it isn't unusual to see some attendees at Republican Party rallys, candidate events and protests sporting the Confederate flag, which has become an enduring symbol of White Supremacy.

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Trump supporters at the January 6th insurrection

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Trump supporters inside the Capitol at the January 6th insurrection

In contrast, and while there's still a very long way to go, Democrats continue to strive for racial justice and equity in many of their policies.

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George Floyd's family at the White House prior to their meeting with President Biden.

Today's Democratic Party continues to support policies that are centered on helping working Americans. Today's Republican Party continues to prioritize policies that benefit the wealthy and corporations.

Because Black Americans disproportionately fall into lower income categories, the policies supported by Republicans since the Great Switch continue to disadvantage Black Americans while the policies of Democrats are aimed at helping to lift up communities which have been intentionally historically marginalized.

Systemic Racism

Racism is the belief that one race is superior to another. 'Structural' or 'systemic racism' is a form of racism that operates through laws and policies put in place by people in power that disempowers and devalues racial and ethnic minority groups.

Due to systems that have been designed by White people to advantage White people, White people disproportionately control the power of government institutions; they make and enforce the majority of laws and policies; they hold the majority of wealth; and head the majority of organizations, companies and businesses, both historically and today.

Just a few of the many historical examples of systemic racism in the U.S.:

The above examples (and there are many, many more) show how people used the power of the government or other systems of power to exclude people of color.

While poor, disabled, older, LGBT etc. White people face barriers in the United States, particularly in a system rigged to advantage the wealthy, none of the barriers White people face are because of their whiteness. In addition to barriers such as poverty, disability, age, gender, etc. Black Americans regularly face barriers simply because they are Black. Therefore, it is not racist to unrig the rules to create opportunities for Black Americans to succeed.

Systemic racism continues today:

This year, Wisconsin was ranked the WORST state in the nation for Black Americans by the Wall Street index, which measures median household income, poverty, adult high school and bachelor’s degree attainment, homeownership, unemployment rates, rate of imprisonment by race and mortality by race.

Healthcare practices disadvantage minority groups and result in disproportionately high rates of deaths and disease to those communities. In Kenosha County, for example, a Black baby is nearly four times more likely to die than a White baby.

Some examples of systemic racism that made the headlines recently:

  • In 2020, the popular real estate website RedFin was sued for discriminatory practices akin to redlining in Milwaukee and other cities across the country. The company provided its full range of services to White families but discriminated against Black and Latino families.
  • New Florida educational standards require the teaching that slaves benefitted from being enslaved by developing highly specialized skills that in the future helped them financially.
  • Three lawmakers in Tennessee, who became known as the Tennessee Three, participated in a protest against gun violence on the state Assembly floor; two were Black men and one was a White woman. Only the Black men were expelled on a vote by their fellow Assembly members. (Thankfully they prevailed in special elections and were sent back to the Assembly by their communities.)
  • South Carolina's Board of Education removed AP African American Studies from the curriculum but maintained AP European History.
  • After almost 80 years of excluding statistics on the Negro League (that there were separate leagues based on race itself is a form of systemic racism), Major League Baseball officials announced last week they would finally incorporate statistical data from the Negro League into their records.

Republicans Believe Addressing Systemic Racism is...Racist.

In their blog about Juneteenth, the local Republican Party claims Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs, introduced to promote the fair treatment and inclusion of all citizens, are themselves racist. From the RPKC blog: "In 2024, institutionalized racism is resurging, and threatens to roll back [Civil Rights-era] advances. This is due to promotion of the grossly misnamed doctrine of “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” or “DEI... though DEI claims to be anti-racist, by definition it is itself racist. And when schools, corporations, universities, and governmental bodies mandate DEI in hiring, training, or promotion, they are institutionalizing racism."

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the right-wing attacks on DEI programs is part of a conservative effort to "to dismantle systems designed to foster racial equity and progress" and is part of a conservative backlash against racial justice efforts that ignited after the 2020 killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. The claim that 'addressing systemic racism is racist' is a propaganda point that has been promoted by the conservative Heritage Foundation, the organization behind the current Republican Project 2025. Conservative Republican media figures and members of the party use this talking point as a way to undercut attempts to make meaningful social change for historically excluded communities.

Conservatives believe efforts to make institutions and organizations more inclusive and equitable for marginalized communities means defining people only in terms of race; they believe it is an attack on White people and the rights of White people. The RPKC's blog describes DEI efforts as a "new racism [that] views a human being through the same lens as did the old racism of Jim Crow and segregation: not as an individual, with his or her own strengths, weaknesses, virtues, and flaws, but merely as an instance of the social construct called 'race.'" They believe addressing racism advantages Black Americans in ways that are unfair and disadvantages White people, and that race-neutral "colorblind" policies are the only way to equity. That's their rhetoric, but what are their actions?

Let's Talk About the Actions of the Republican Party When It Comes to Racial Policies Today

At the Nation Level:

The Republican Party at the local, state and national level is refusing to address the racial disparity that exists due to systemic racism. In fact, some of the policies they advance and actions they take increase inequality.

Conservative groups aligned with the Republican Party, like Moms for Liberty, have attacked the teaching of Black History and books about Black Americans in our schools.

Republicans have attacked Black voting rights and support policies that have disproportionately hurt Black Americans on issues ranging from gun violence to housing to infant mortality and many other areas.

Republican Donald Trump's proudest legislative accomplishment during his term as President was passing a tax cut that benefitted the wealthy and failed to trickle down to working Americans. It had a dual effect: it ballooned the country's debt and increased the tax burden on working Americans. Republicans have championed tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans at all levels of government, which has been a contributor to America's shrinking middle class. Republicans then use decreased tax revenue and increased debt as an excuse to try to cut social programs, many of the beneficiaries of which are Black Americans.

At the State Level:

Huge racial inequities exists in Wisconsin. Republicans not only deny the problem exists, they put up barriers to prevent it from being addressed while passing policies which widen the gap.

Many of the policies that Republicans have championed in the state legislature over the years have disadvantaged minority populations, resulting in extreme inequity in the state on many measures. Gerrymandering has maintained a Republican majority in the legislature, preventing Democratic proposals to address racial inequity from even having a hearing on the floor. Many bills that would maintain or worsen inequity, passed by the Republican legislature, have been vetoed by Gov. Evers since he took office.

In September 2021, Wisconsin Republicans passed a bill that not only banned teaching about racism, but also banned 99 words from being uttered in the classroom, including “woke,” “whiteness,” “white supremacy,” “structural bias,” “structural racism,” “systemic bias,” “systemic racism,” “equity,” “inclusivity education,” “multiculturalism,” “patriarchy,” “social justice” and “cultural awareness.” Gov. Evers vetoed this bill.

Wisconsin Republicans have attacked Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs. They have tried to eliminate them by eliminating funding, withholding other forms of funding to get institutions to comply, and using the of power of their elected office to attack programs set up to include communities that have been intentionally marginalized.

After the 2022 election, the press obtained a message from a Republican member of Wisconsin's Election Commission, Bob Spindell, congratulating the Republican Party on their successful suppression of Black and Latino voters through a targeted negative media campaign. Spindell wrote in part: "Republicans can be especially proud of the City of Milwaukee (80.2% Dem Vote) casting 37,000 less votes than cast in the 2018 election with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.” Spindell also served as one of Trump's fraudulent electors and continues to sit on the Wisconsin Election Commission because Republicans have refused calls to remove him.

Wisconsin Republicans voted against recognizing Black History Month in Wisconsin despite the fact that all children deserve to see themselves in their school curriculum and to have an honest and accurate education.

Wisconsin Republicans participated in attempts to throw out the votes of Wisconsinites in predominantly Black cities based on Trump's lie that the election was stolen. Conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court came within one vote of overturning the 2022 election by disenfranchising primarily Black votes.

In April 2024, text messages from the head of the Republican National Committee and Trump Campaign head in Wisconsin revealed Wisconsin Republican's plans to sabotage the Black Souls to the Polls ride share program by flooding the organization with fake requests for rides.

Kenosha Republicans and Systemic Racism

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Adelene Greene, Kenosha County

Adelene Greene, who retired as director of Workforce Development for Kenosha County in 2016, and a member of the Coalition for Dismantling Racism, provided a written statement in support of the resolution which created the Kenosha County Racial and Ethnic Equity Commission (REEC) to address systemic racism in Kenosha County:

“As an African American I can attest that racism exists in this community. Racism is systematic and institutional and it works to the detriment of African Americans and other people of color. Ignoring these racial disparities will not fix this problem.”

Research and data presented to the then-County Board of Supervisors led them to declare racism a public health crisis in Kenosha County in August 2020. The Kenosha County Racial and Ethnic Equity Commission (REEC) was formed in 2021 to further research, and make recommendations for addressing systemic racism in Kenosha County. The Kenosha County Executive was tasked with appointing appropriate members to serve on the REEC.

Following her election to County Executive in 2022, Republican County Executive Samantha Kerkman did not just ignore racial disparities in Kenosha County; her poorly qualified candidates killed the REEC just months after their appointments.

For months after her election, Kerkman delayed making appointments to the open seats on the REEC. During that time she appointed dozens of other people to serve on various other County boards and commissions, ignoring that systemic racism was causing a public health crisis that members of the REEC were supposed to be addressing. When Kerkman finally succumbed to pressure from County Board Supervisors and the community to make appointments to the REEC, she chose people who were controversial and poorly-suited to the Commission. Some of her appointees expressed skepticism that systemic racism existed and admitted during vetting they hadn't bothered to read the Commission's mission. In choosing those appointees, Kerkman overlooked highly qualified minority candidates with experience addressing systemic racism.

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Kerkman's appointees were so terrible, Kenosha organizations including religious groups and residents of all political affiliation protested them. Organizations came together to express outrage over her actions. Even Hispanic leaders expressed their opposition to the two Hispanic men Kerkman appointed (Xavier Solis and Brian Gonzales) and community concerns proved well founded as the Commission made state-wide news for its dysfunctional activities as it pursued one hyper-partisan issue after another. Under Soli's leadership, the REEC derailed from its intended focus, instead entertaining the expansion of school vouchers, engaged in anti-abortion discussions-even going so far as to invite the head of a crisis pregnancy center to speak and spent months trying to rename an Equity Award named by Kerkman's Democratic predecessor. Solis, who became chair of the REEC, was photographed chairing a meeting wearing a shirt with the logo of an anti-government extremist group. Kerkman disbanded the Commission shortly after residents sought Solis’ resignation for using a derogatory term in addressing a Black man.

Rather than appointing competent Commissioners or re-focusing the Commission to its important mission, Kerkman rescinded all appointments and left the Commission unable to function without a quorum.

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The REEC faced opposition from Kenosha's Republican leadership from the start. Erin Decker, then-Chair of the Local Republican Party and a County Board Supervisor, was the only 'NO' vote when the Board voted to recognize systemic racism as a public health crisis in Kenosha County. “I don’t believe there is systemic racism,” Decker said at a County committee meeting where the resolution passed. She continued to oppose it during the full board meeting, where it also passed.

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When Erin Decker became Vice Chair of the County Board in 2022, the County's Judiciary and Law Committee voted to reject police data presented by the members of the Racial and Ethnic Equity Commission that showed Black individuals in Kenosha County were almost seven times more likely to be arrested than White individuals.


White Supremacists Embrace of Today's Republican Party

Today's Republican Party and many of its candidates, including Donald Trump, have been embraced by neo- Nazis, skinheads, the KKK and other White Supremacists.

Trump and some Republican leaders have occasionally made public statements claiming they don't support these groups or White supremacy. Despite their statements, or maybe because of other statements and actions that conflict with this, it is clear White supremacy groups see themselves as aligned with the Republican Party and its leadership. Some Republican leaders and Republican allies have even openly embraced extremist groups and extremist ideology.

White supremacists by their actions and statements appear to view Donald Trump and the Republican Party as the party that best represents their values. White supremacists have been in attendance at Republican Party events, were a pro-Trump presence on January 6th-which resulted in conspiracy convictions for some group leaders, have attended their protests where their signs and banners show support of Republicans.

The Crusader, the official news outlet for the KKK, even announced it support for candidate Trump in the 2016 election. Even though Trump rejected the endorsement, it was clear the Klan saw him as the candidate that best reflected their values:

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A Nazi banner supporting Trump and Pence at a Trump rally in Boise Idaho in 2020:

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Photos from the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally in 2018, after which Trump made his infamous "very fine people on both sides" comment:

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Attendees at the Unite the Right rally shouted Nazi slogans like "Jews will not replace us."

January 6th - the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters following Trump's 'Stop the Steal' rally:

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An insurrectionist wearing a shirt with words Camp Auschwitz. Auschwitz was a Nazi internment camp during WWII, where 1.3 million Jewish men, women and children were killed.

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A Proud Boy member on January 6th wearing a shirt which means "6 million wasn't enough" referring to the number of Jewsish men, women and children killed by Nazi's during WWII. Two Proud Boy leaders were sentenced on federal conspiracy chargers for their role in the January 6th insurrection, based on false claims by then-President Trump that the election had been stolen.

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While many Republicans say they disavow White Supremacists and their actions, it is clear White supremacists feel they most closely identify with today's Republican Party.


Today's Republicans credit themselves with the actions of the Republican Party 161 year ago. The actions by then-Republican Party members were admirable and instrumental in freeing the slaves.

The Republican blog ignores the Great Switch and reaches back into history, perhaps to deflect from Republican's current policies that deny, fail to address, and sometimes worsen systemic racism today.

President Joe Biden and Democrats have taken many actions during Biden's first term to address systemic racism and promote equity, especially for those who have historically and intentionally been excluded.

This makes it clear the ideological positions both parties settled on during the Big Switch remain firmly in place today.

We must not let the Republican Party paint a false historical narrative in an attempt to mask its current actions, beliefs and allies.