Black Tennessee lawmakers exposed state legislature


Staff Report, The Hornet Tribune

Most people were sitting in amazement in front of their televisions as the Tennessee speaker of the house and all of the white legislators in the state of Tennessee voted to expel Rep. Justin J. Pearson and Rep. Justin Jones because these two young Black lawmakers wanted action from the legislative body regarding gun control in the state of Tennessee.
The three took part in a protest focused on the Tennessee legislature’s refusal to consider any new gun legislation after a mass shooting in which three small children and three educators were murdered. They took to the floor of the House chamber with a bullhorn as more than a thousand people gathered at the Tennessee statehouse.
If this editorial board thought that children being murdered at a private Christian school in the state’s capital was enough to spur Republicans towards increased gun safety measures, this staff was proved wrong.
By expelling these two legislators, the state of Tennessee erased representation for thousands of Tennesseans who voted for them. What is even more interesting, is that they were protesting the fact that the three children who were murdered were white students who attended The Covenant School in Nashville.
This national attention displayed an enlightening fact to many people across America – how the state of Tennessee has been gerrymandered in such a way that Republicans will always maintain control.
Gerrymandering warps not just the legislative process but the perceptions of those who hold office. Because the system is rigged to put lawmakers in contact only with constituents who agree with them, they tend not to hear contrary viewpoints—or even consider differing opinions to be worthy of consideration.
When Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton shut off Pearson and Jones’ microphones when they attempted to speak on gun control as thousands of people are dying everyday due to illegal weapons, people were turned off. Most Americans are horrified by these mass shootings.
To see these two young Black lawmakers make gun control their mantra and stand up for their constituents who want something done by lawmakers powerful. And to witness the audacity of these white lawmakers to silence them in unimaginable.
Another revelation that became very visible was the way these two lawmakers are treated by their colleagues. Rep. Justin Lafferty of Knoxville forcefully shoved Rep. Jones on the House floor before voting to expel Jones for a lack of decorum.
The expulsions of Pearson and Jones – were an addendum to a clumsy and misguided legislative agenda.
They have provided a pathway for students to sue professors who teach a list of ideas they deem “divisive,” many of which challenge conservative understandings of race. They have moved to privatize public education in Tennessee and model it after a conservative Christian college hundreds of miles away in another state.
With mass shootings becoming common place, students must stop and think about their futures. I know others have walked across campus these last few weeks and felt that it may only be a matter of time before tragedy strikes here.
Governments that are not designed to reflect the will of the people start by ignoring the will of the people—and then often graduate to thwarting the will of the people.