Tennessee Legislature Strips Black Members of Right to Free Speech

This s a photo of Kevin Seraaj, journalist and publisher of the Orlando Advocate
Kevin Seraaj, publisher, Orlando Advocate

First Amendment shot down by racist lawmakers in reactionary move to silence critics of state gun violence

by Kevin Seraaj, Orlando Advocate

When it comes to the Second Amendment, Republicans have zero tolerance for any hint of a curb on the right to bear arms. They don’t feel the same way about the right of everyone else to freedom of speech., however.

On March 30, three days after the deadly shooting at a private Christian grade school in Tennessee that left three nine-year-olds and three adults dead, hundreds of protesters poured into the courtyard of the state capitol in Nashville to call for tighter gun control. Inside, three legislators– Rep. Justin Jones, Rep. Justin Pearson and Rep. Gloria Johnson– staged their own impromptu protest, calling for an end to ‘guns as usual’ in the state.

Never mind that protest is a time-honored means of addressing inequities to the powers-that-be (America was born out of protest), Republicans were quick to negatively respond. The sounds of the Democratic Representatives’ protest were still bouncing off the walls when Republicans started talking about expelling them.

Formal motions to expel the three who dared to express a different point of view were introduced by three Tennessee MAGA-men on April 3, and accusing the trio of “disorderly behavior.”  And then the expulsions began. Not all of them were expelled, though. Rep. Johnson was spared. Like many, she assumed the reason she was treated better was the color of her skin.

Funny how the people who proclaim their desire to see America made great again are doing everything in their power to push the nation back into the abyss of political darkness: women with no rights, blacks with no means of redress. Certainly one of the “great” things about America was the founding fathers’ belief that a society must be exposed to wrong ideas in order to strengthen its belief in right ones. As founding father James Madison said: “for the people to rule wisely, they must be free to think and speak without fear of reprisal.”

Not in the halls of Tennessee law.

There is nothing more dangerous to the status quo than an idea. You can vilify it, beat it near to death, bury it beneath a ton of conspiracy theories, justify its mistreatment with a slew of Bible verses, but an idea will never die. Silencing these rebellious lawmakers will not silence the idea that only legislative control of military-grade weapons will keep our nation sane– and our children safe.

How unfortunate it is that the status quo today is defined by the reactionary right wing element of the GOP.

And the people who continue to vote for them at the ballot box.