SEVERE WX : Winter Weather Advisory - Winter Storm Warning View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Tennessee's legislature is acting like it's still 1968

It would seem that the Tennessee GOP has enough to concern themselves with this session to not get caught up in retal...

Posted: Apr 20, 2018 6:31 AM
Updated: Apr 20, 2018 6:31 AM

It would seem that the Tennessee GOP has enough to concern themselves with this session to not get caught up in retaliation over the removal of Confederate statues in Memphis. Poverty, education, and health care are all pressing issues in the state. But instead of focusing on solving the challenges related to these constituent concerns, lawmakers filed multiple bills at the beginning of the session in January to provide additional protections to the statues. While the Tennessee House did not pass any bills in the first 3 weeks of their 15 week session (and the Senate passed only one), causing intraparty concern, House members did spend ample time debating the legality of the removal of these statues from Memphis. Their removal had been championed by black community leaders off-and-on for years in the majority-black city, which is also the largest in the state.

The harshest of these bills proposed making removal of confederate statues a felony, putting mayors and city leadership at risk for enacting the will of their residents. Had this bill been a law in late 2017, the statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis would more than likely still be standing in Memphis. While the bill would not have applied retroactively, it would have a major impact on future decisions across Tennessee, especially in metro areas such as Nashville, where residents have also been calling for removal of Confederate monuments.

Fortunately, the bill wasn't passed, but can be resurrected in the next session. Unfortunately, the House found another way to "punish" Memphis -- by amending its budget to remove $250,000 earmarked for the city's upcoming bicentennial celebration in 2019. We can be sure the legislature will continue to find ways to get back at Memphis for removing two racist slave owners from our public parks.

Opponents of the removal in the legislature feel burned after Memphis found an unconventional route to accomplish its goal of removing the statues. Memphis initially sought a waiver from the Tennessee Historical Commission under the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, a law governing the removal, relocation or renaming of memorials on public property -- but was denied. Spurred by the recent community-led movement, #takeemdown901, the city council passed legislation allowing it to sell parkland to a nonprofit for less than fair market value; this provision also allowed the private entity to remove statues from its land. The city council then voted unanimously to sell the two parks with statues in them to a nonprofit, facilitating their removal.

One of the sponsors of the punitive amendment, State Rep. Steve McDaniel, acknowledged the retaliatory nature of the House's funding measure: "Memphis did something that removed historical markers in the city. It was the city of Memphis that did this and it was full knowing that it was not the will of the legislature."

If spending a large chunk of time finding ways to spank Memphis weren't enough to earn the Tennessee House the "most racist legislature" award for 2018, they doubled down on their actions by twice refusing to denounce white nationalism and neo-Nazism. Tennessee has every reason to make this declaration. In 2017, white nationalists came to Tennessee to engage in "white lives matter" marches. In January of this year, neo-confederates descended upon Memphis and rode around the city and its highways in protest of the statue removal. This February, Matthew Heimbach, one of the organizers of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, chose the University of Tennessee - Knoxville as the location for a series of lectures on white nationalism.

With a rising interest in the white supremacist movement happening inside our state, one would think it would be a no-brainer to denounce these hate-fueled groups. For the Tennessee GOP, however, it was easier to focus on confederate statues than make a hard stand for equality -- even though the second version of the resolution was proposed by one of their own, House Republican Caucus chair Ryan Williams (who withdrew it after "feedback" from his Republican colleagues).

It is important to note that many members of the Tennessee House come from small rural areas with populations that would fit on a Memphis city block. Andy Holt, the Republican noted for saying "bad actions have bad consequences" when chastising Memphis' statue removal, lives in Dresden, Tennessee, with a population of 3,005 in the 2010 census, which is over 90% white. In contrast, Memphis has a population of nearly 650,000 and is 63% black. The patriarchal tone to the efforts to punish Memphis for making a decision that makes sense for our community is steeped in the classism and racism that plague our state legislature. Republicans in the Tennessee House apparently believe in small government when it works for their constituency. Their tune changes when it comes to black people in Tennessee self-advocating.

It's not just the Memphis city government taking heat for the removal of the Confederate statues, either. It's anyone who publicly fought for them to come down -- myself included. In February, Democratic State Rep. Barbara Cooper put forward four resolutions to honor members of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Incorporated, for their work in social justice. I was one of them. The resolutions passed, but then Republican State Rep. Glen Casada was notified that I was one of the people honored with that vote. Casada recalled the resolution for a revote, saying (incorrectly) that my work with the movement for black lives included advocating for the killing of police officers and taking issue with my leadership of #takeemdown901, the movement which fueled the removal of Memphis' Confederate statues. Eventually, the resolution was passed again, but was amended to remove the names of the House GOP as supporters.

As the 2018 session of the Tennessee State Legislature draws to a close this month, we can only wonder what additional retaliatory actions will be taken against Memphis. The Tennessee GOP shows its disdain for our majority black city as often as possible. Private citizens, public officials and funding for city initiatives are all on the line because of the movement work that led our city to take action and remove these statues. All lives don't matter to the Tennessee legislature, but it's clear Confederate ones do.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 137600

Reported Deaths: 1877
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah29040464
Washington19216179
Marion16668247
Clackamas11989141
Lane8724113
Jackson712295
Umatilla697673
Deschutes517140
Yamhill329448
Malheur319855
Linn319449
Polk256340
Klamath252446
Josephine182636
Benton181714
Douglas175944
Jefferson173425
Union114617
Wasco111723
Columbia107518
Lincoln102717
Coos98315
Hood River97621
Morrow96310
Clatsop7075
Crook65213
Baker5825
Tillamook3692
Curry3245
Lake2485
Grant2171
Harney1806
Wallowa993
Gilliam531
Sherman470
Wheeler201
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3147735

Reported Deaths: 36846
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles106550515184
San Bernardino2628581594
Riverside2585322777
San Diego2255582344
Orange2214932625
Santa Clara964351181
Kern89095590
Fresno847441043
Sacramento828611157
Alameda69693886
Ventura64404507
San Joaquin59395808
Contra Costa54416487
Stanislaus43938788
Tulare42759531
Monterey37285259
San Mateo33731340
San Francisco30027278
Santa Barbara26514264
Solano26494111
Imperial25562493
Merced25048324
Sonoma24761247
Kings19760160
Placer17675188
San Luis Obispo16437151
Madera13781151
Santa Cruz12687130
Marin11930163
Yolo11014138
Shasta9920129
Butte9711134
El Dorado800259
Sutter792783
Napa782847
Lassen526916
San Benito514348
Yuba504929
Tehama446846
Tuolumne344340
Nevada329674
Mendocino325635
Amador304232
Lake268132
Humboldt249425
Glenn198522
Colusa18549
Calaveras167223
Siskiyou148413
Mono11354
Inyo100729
Del Norte8732
Plumas6055
Modoc3873
Mariposa3464
Trinity3054
Sierra880
Alpine730
Unassigned00
Medford
Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 37°
Brookings
Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 36°
Medford
Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 21° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 37°
Medford
Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 37°
Klamath Falls
Cloudy
31° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 24°
Wintry weather expected on Sunday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events