On Thursday, April 6, our country witnessed in real time a travesty in the State House of Tennessee. We witnessed the expulsion of two young Black Democrats from the Legislature because they were protesting for better gun control. Ironically, a third member of that protest, a White Democrat, was “spared” for that same action. As millions around the country and world watched, two passionate young men were handed their table nameplates and dismissed from the chamber.
Our first emotion was one of astonishment. The second was outrage.
The Spartanburg Initiative for Racial Equity Now (SIREN) condemns the actions of the Republican supermajority in the Tennessee House of Representatives. The action was clear: “You are NOT wanted!”
While the House Republicans may say their action was not racist, how can you come to any other conclusion? The White female legislator, Rep. Gloria Johnson, committed the same act as the two young Black men, Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson. She was not expelled, as the majority was one vote shy to accomplish that. Why was she spared? In her own words, it “might have to do with the color of my skin.”
This was a racist action heaped upon two bright and gifted young Black men.
Our country was founded on protest. Our First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech, assembly, and the right to petition the government, among other supposedly inalienable rights. But the state of Tennessee threw this out the window. It was and is a frightening example of fascism and authoritarianism in our country.
We need to stop saying “America is better than this” and start moving America away from this. We know that this can happen in South Carolina’s House, which also has a super majority of conservatives. This has set a precedent around the nation with such states. This was a deliberate and atrocious act of partisan power.
As a grassroots racial equity organization, we ask that you stand with the Tennessee Three and voice your outrage at such a callous act in a legislative body.
Spartanburg Initiative for Racial Equity Now (SIREN)
Photos: Jones – Instagram @brotherjones_ | Pearson – Facebook @VoteJustinJ