Top 5 Ways The State Of Tennessee Welcomes Racists

Betsy at Pith has a post up about how communities provide cover for racists. She writes:

It’s not too much to ask that we look around our communities and ask ourselves if there are ways we’re signalling to dangerous racists that we support their cause. Are there ways that we’re normalizing and making ordinary and mundane things that should be read as warning signs?

Good point. Not to toot my own horn, but I made a similar observation back in 2013 when the League of the South announced plans to hold rallies in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro. At the time I wondered:

What is it about Tennessee that draws the hatemongers out of the woodwork? Thinking … thinking ….

But all sarcasm aside, maybe it’s time to revisit the topic. What signals are we in Nashville and across Tennessee in general sending to racists that their ideas are welcome? How does our state government send the message that we tolerate racist ideas? Let me count the ways.

1- When the Memphis City Council voted to rename city parks named after Confederate figures like KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, the state legislature responded as it always does: by passing a law preventing municipalities from renaming city parks named for military figures. Not included in that legislation: a provision preventing municipalities from also renaming parks and monuments named for civil rights leaders. The measure passed overwhelmingly in both chambers:

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro was approved 26-3 by the Senate on Thursday. The companion bill passed the house 69-22 last month.

Approved 26-3 by the state Senate. Wrap your head around that for a second. Did our noodle-spined governor sign it? Of course he did! Why do you even ask?

2- This hideously ugly assault on common decency off I-65 just south of Nashville:


This is a privately-funded statue of the aforementioned Nathan Bedford Forrest, KKK founder and Confederate general, clearly visible as one drives I-65 between Brentwood and Nashville. Besides being hideously ugly, and honoring a hideously ugly idea, it’s also (usually) surrounded by a display of Confederate flags. Anyone driving into Nashville from the south sees this entirely inappropriate “welcome.”

While the nightmarish statue is privately funded and sits on private land, TDOT has right-of-way alongside the Interstate. Why the hell a massive tree screen wasn’t planted to prevent this assault on the senses from being the “welcome” visitors see as they enter our state capitol, I have no clue. (UPDATE: an effort to restore a vegetation screen has begun.)

3- When racist groups like the Southern National Congress, Stormfront and American Renaissance hold their annual conferences in our state-owned facilities like Montgomery Bell State Park and Fall Creek Falls State Park, it not only goes completely unremarked from our spaghetti-spined Republican governor and legislature, some of our state reps even speak at the events.

As I wrote at the time:

It’s amazing to me that our state legislature can hold pointless, grandstanding votes on anti-UN nonsense like Agenda 21, but a bunch of intolerant bigots and extremists hold a gathering at a taxpayer-funded state facility and no one can be bothered to make even the slightest gesture in objection.

When these things happen and our government can’t even be bothered to issue a declaration of protest, it sends a signal to hatemongers and racists that they are welcome.

4- When empathy-challenged Tennessee legislators troll people of color to garner headlines for themselves and are not rebuked by their caucus.

5- When shit like this happens, and no one is fired.

At what point will the state address the intolerance it endorses?


Filed under racism, Tennessee, Tennessee politics

11 responses to “Top 5 Ways The State Of Tennessee Welcomes Racists

  1. Yes, sad to say, segments of Tennessee hate-filled people (I won’t call them citizens) have been allowed to ‘freedom of speech’ have Confederate celebrations State wide, parading with the RACIST flag for 100 years. But I am proud to say that our people stood in solid protest here in Knoxville in 2011, (I think), when a ‘white power, KKK group applied to have a “First Amendment march through one section of downtown Knoxville. They had police ‘protecting’ their shameful, salute to Hitler, yelling disgusting slogans and dragging their little children as they marched about 3 blocks and tried to stage a rally. BUT a huge anti-hate rally was waiting for them and ran them off.

  2. W

    Re item 2, I take it you don’t remember when it was installed in the 90’s? There was a lot of tree and scrub growth along the interstate on TDOT right of way blocking view of the statue. The guy that owns it sent a request that TDOT clear the ROW fronting his property and someone sent out an inmate crew to clear it. There was quite a stink about it because state money was used and the inmate crew had several African-American members. TDOT said they were just honoring a request from a property owner and didn’t even realize what they were clearing visual access too.

    So it used to be hidden. I suspect they haven’t planted in front of it either because no one thought of it or because they don’t want to fight with the landowner.

  3. Prup (aka Jim Benton)

    Even given your usual high standards, this was exceptional, and I immediately referred to it on Steve Benen’s Maddowblog. (You can’t post links there, unfortunately.)

    As I said in my own commentary, it is not the racism that is new, but the acceptance of it — and add Buchanan’s channeling of Nazi memes; Coulter’s use of Peter Brimelow as a source; Beck’s citing of the (convicted) Nazi transmission belt , Elizabeth Dilling; the disappearance of Larry Pratt’s racist history down the memory hole (and, oh, yeah, the Elegant Tony Perkins’ equivalent history as well) to the list.

    (And, if I may do a little tootling on my own piccolo, this is why I have been condemning the Democrats — north and south, black and white — for not making an issue of Republican racists and racism since before the election of 2010. Hopefully, Hillary may be changing that — at last..

    • Democrats are just too spineless, always have been. They say something like, “that’s racist!” and immediately the RW Outrage Machine launches into it’s “how dare yous!” and they fold like a dang lawnchair. Remember when John Edwards mentioned Mary Cheney being a lesbian and the entre Wingnutosphere just acted as if that was the worst thing in the world? I guess we’re just too nice to go into attack mode effectively.


    OT, I know…..but I’ve been expecting a shout-out for the stupid, who was fishing with his buds and wanted to show off his dick, fished around, and found it, unloaded the clip, cleared the chamber, and to prove the point it was empty, pointed it at his temple…..shot out and emptied his brain instead…..sorry it’s too late on the west coast for me to search for a link…I’m head off to bed. I’m sure Google can help.

  5. sharl

    Regarding Item #2, I understand* how you feel, but personally I’m kinda with Gawker’s Sam Biddle on this one. I can’t help it, I have a soft spot for kitsch, and sometimes – like this – the sheer hideousness only adds to the hilarity. Head shots from that hilarihideous statue are already showing up as Twitter avatars, and are being re-purposed in ways that my twisted mind finds most amusing.

    You mentioned in a subsequent post that SC may choose to take down the pro-slavery flag over their state capitol to preserve their business interests, rather than out of any sense of moral or ethical duty. Unfortunately, that general mechanism seems to be the most reliably effective in effecting changes like this. Maybe that same mechanism would work for Nashville. To the extent we wish to be a “civilized society” – and acknowledging the different ways “reasonable people” would define the salient features of that term – I think that, collectively, we only wear “civilized society” like a dusty patina on our nation’s/specie’s exterior. Until that layer consolidates, hardens, and deepens, improvement via business community embarrassment may be the best available approach.

    So I’m thinking: is there land near that gloriously awful statue to build a Museum of Hideous Kitsch? It would probably have to be a shoestring operation (unless a wealthy benefactor with an awesomely quirky sense of humor can be identified), but first order of business would be to install those bifocal telescopes one sees for visitors to tourist traps with elevated sites and interesting surrounding views. Just a thought…

    *I thought of you when I mentioned Biddle’s post over at B-J, only discovering your (this) post after the fact. FWIW, I noted this post in a subsequent comment over there (#80).

    • ….is there land near that gloriously awful statue to build a Museum of Hideous Kitsch?

      Good idea. I haven’t perused the area all that closely, but I’ll check into it. I think it’s mostly owned by the state and CSX but I’m actually not that sure.

  6. sharl

    Aaaaand, I see – after the fact, as is my wont – that you made the very same point in your later post about the role of the business community in effecting change.
    Le Sigh…