News & Politics

Black Lawmakers Unleash Fury on Tennessee GOP for Punishing Memphis Over Confederate Statues, Treating Racist Figures Like 'God'

State leaders also called the conservatives' actions 'un-Christian.'

Photo Credit: Ron Cogswell

Tennessee’s Republican-dominated state legislature this week voted to punish the black-majority city of Memphis because it had removed two Confederate memorial statues — including a statue of former Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that Tennessee’s state legislature has voted to take away $250,000 that was originally set aside to be spent at Memphis’s upcoming bicentennial celebration.

The reason for the vote was that Memphis last year removed statues of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis and former Confederate General Forrest, who would go on to become the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in the years following the Civil War.

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“What this amendment does is it removes $250,000 from the budget that is designated to go to the city of Memphis for their bicentennial celebration,” said GOP State Rep. Steve McDaniel while justifying his support for punishing the city. “If you recall, back in December, Memphis did something that removed historical markers in the city. It was the city of Memphis that did this, and it was full knowing it was not the will of the legislature.”

Tennessee Democrats, however, tore into the GOP for punishing Memphis for removing the statues. Democratic Rep. Antonio Parkinson slammed the GOP for its “vile, racist” policies and accused them of treating a former KKK leader “as if he was God.”

And Democratic Rep. Raumesh Akbari said the amendment was “unkind, it is un-Christian and it is unfair.”

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Brad Reed is a writer living in Boston. His work has previously appeared in the American Prospect Online, and he blogs frequently at Sadly, No!.