June 23, 2024

Wishing Tennessee well: Political showdown in the state legislature

When people talk for long enough, you will hear exactly what you need to know. Tennessee has talked long enough and we have learned the worst about their sexism, bigotry, racism and homophobia.  

Three members of the Tennessee House of Representatives faced expulsion for their protest in support of gun safety legislation and gun reform laws.  

According to Jay O’Brien of ABC News, Justin Pearson, Justin Jones and Gloria Johnson were all expelled from the Tennessee House. They were accused of “shouting, pounding on the podium, and leading chants with civilians in the gallery…”  

Throughout the proceedings of this resolution, it may have been easy to forget why the three representatives, now known as the “Tennessee Three,” found themselves as unrecognized speakers in the well. 

Prior to their expulsion, six people had just been killed in a mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville. 

For hours, the “Tennessee Three” were subjected to waving fingers and shaking heads of disapproval. The GOP spoke of decorum, but the manner in which many of the representatives spoke to Jones, Pearson and Johnson was unbecoming, disrespectful and demeaning.  

Johnson said, “In listening to the questions and the way they were questioned and the way they were talked to, I was talked down to as a woman, mansplained to, but it was completely different from the questioning that they got.” 

It’s one thing to condemn actions, it’s another thing to abuse the power given to you, voting on resolutions with biased intentions.  

Rep. Jones and Rep. Pearson were treated differently because they were black and they were expelled because they challenged the status quo. They refused to be silent on matters that actually matter.  

Rep. Jones joined student protestors in the halls after being expelled from the House. Photo via Tennessee State Government.

All three representatives, but especially Rep. Jones and Rep. Pearson, were given platforms because of their swift and unjust removal from the General Assembly. 

They have since been compared to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Langston Hughes and other Black activists who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. Their responses to questions are eloquent and powerful. Their intelligence and passion is tangible when they speak.

Rep. Jones and Rep. Pearson are capitalizing on the platform they have been given. In the House Chambers and during interviews, they focus on their constituents, gun safety laws and other legislation they believe need to be passed.

Rep. Justin Pearson poses in front of the White House. Photo via Wiki Commons.

The irony of this story is two-fold. 

First, Rep. Johnson was not expelled from the House. Rep. Jones and Rep. Pearson were reinstated by their districts in special elections for interim representatives, both in unanimous decisions.  

Second, they are back in the People’s House unchanged. On his first day back, Rep. Jones confronted Speaker Cameron Sexton about his dereliction of duty and abuse of power. Rep. Jones also called for Speaker Sexton to resign from office. 

The official state slogan of Tennessee is, “Tennessee—America at its best.” This is a bold statement from a state that expels members of the House for representing their constituents on one day and on another looks to ban drag shows and abortion.  In reality, the “Tennessee Three” are America at its best.

Author

  • Samaree Perkins

    Samaree Perkins is a first-year 3+3 student with a concentration in Journalism and Professional Writing. She is a member of Capital's women's volleyball and basketball teams. She is also the Public Relations Chair of the Student-Athletic Advisory Committee and PCA with the Office of Career Development. In the future, Samaree hopes to attend law school and become a judge.

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