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?