Tennessee lawmakers decided on Tuesday to penalize Memphis for removing Confederate monuments from the city.
According to the Commercial Appeal, House members approved a last-minute amendment to remove $250,000 that was allocated to the city of Memphis. The amendment was approved with a 56-31 vote and was introduced following Memphis’ decision to take down two racist statues last year.
Initially, Memphis was denied a waiver by the state Historical Commission to remove the statues. As a result, officials sold two of its public parks to a nonprofit in December, and the organization then removed the statues of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads) — who is a vocal advocate for preserving historical monuments — made it abundantly clear that this was introduced as a consequence of Memphis’ decision.
"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," McDaniel said on the House floor. "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."
Democrats expressed sentiments of shame and disgust at their colleagues' cruel retaliation tactic against Memphis.
"This amendment and the explanation is hateful, it is unkind, it is un-Christian and it is unfair," said Rep. Raumesh Akbari, (D-Memphis). "Memphis is a city in this state, and I am sick of people in this House acting like it’s not."
Despite the strong Democratic opposition, Republicans in the House doubled down on their vindictive decision. Rep. Andy Holt, (R-Dresden), maintained that “bad actions” have “bad consequences.” Alas, the fact that Holt would deem the removal of racist statues as a “bad” action is very telling of their party’s values.
Beyond the deeply rooted racism at the center of the issue, this punishment also comes across as a deliberate flex of power simply to teach Memphis a lesson about going against the wishes of the House.
Regardless, this type of spiteful and malicious political stunt contradicts everything the United States supposedly stands for in regard to freedom and democracy. Memphis did the right thing by removing monuments that glorify America's racist history, and the city's officials deserve to be applauded for getting it done, not punished.
Banner/Thumbnail : Flickr, Ken Lund