Reinstating Black Tennessee lawmakers won't fix GOP damage
“The Tennessee Republican Party lit a fire that’s unlikely to die out anytime soon — even if both Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson are reseated.
Tennessee state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson were expelled from the state's House by GOP lawmakers last week after protesting gun violence.
State Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is white, narrowly survived a vote on whether to expel her from the House. She acknowledged that racism likely played a key role in the vote. After all, Tennessee Republicans have a long history of targeting Black lawmakers like Jones and Pearson, which I discussed in this ReidOut Bloglast week.
It now seems local officials may reinstate both Jones and Pearson, but Republicans' disturbing response to Black lawmakers protesting gun violence has wreaked plenty of havoc already.
Nashville's Metropolitan Council voted to reinstate Jones on Monday. And the Shelby County Board of Commissioners has scheduled a vote for Wednesday on Pearson's potential reinstatement. Multiple members of the board have said they support Pearson’s reinstatement, including Chairman Mickell Lowery. However, at least one commissioner is considering voting against reinstatement, allegedly fearing Republican lawmakers would retaliate against Shelby County (which includes much of Memphis) by withholding crucial funds.
Reseating Pearson and Jones once again would be a step toward righting a wrong committed by Tennessee Republicans, but it appears these illiberal conservatives opened up a can of worms they’re ill-equipped to handle.
With this story, they’ve helped shine a light on their party’s blatant disregard for democracy all the while making the two lawmakers they targeted into national heroes. And they’ve also ignited nationwide fury.
To that point, state Rep. Sam McKenzie, chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus, encouraged people upset with last week’s events to “stay mad” in a tweet on Friday.
If it wasn’t abundantly clear, the Tennessee Republican Party has lit a fire that’s unlikely to die out anytime soon. This is one story The ReidOut Blog plans to follow closely. Stay tuned.“