After many failed attempts to remove Confederate statues from parks, in December of last year, the city of Memphis sold two public parks to a private non-profit in order to legally take down two Confederate statues. One depicted Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and the other was of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, who also founded the Ku Klux Klan. But what is seen by many as a progressive move and a refusal to celebrate people who fought to keep black people enslaved was seen by Tennessee politicians as a reason to take money from Memphis.
On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Tennessee House of Representatives voted to strip Memphis, a majority black city, of $250,000 meant for a bicentennial celebration next year in retaliation for taking down the statues, tacking a last minute amendment to a routine appropriations bill, which resulted in a bit of an upheaval. As the Associated Press reports:
Rep. Antonio Parkinson began to call the amendment vile and racist before being cut off by boos from fellow lawmakers.
“You can boo all you want but let’s call it for what it is,” the Memphis representative said.
On the other hand, Republican lawmakers attempted to veil the racist amendment as mere call for Memphis to follow the law (which it did), with one even going so far as to compare taking down Confederate statues to ISIS.
“Today is a demonstration that bad actions have bad consequences, and my only regret about this is it’s not in the tune of millions of dollars,” Rep. Andy Holt, of Dresden, said of the punishment.
The decision also highlights the contempt the Tennessee lawmakers have for Memphis and its residents:
“I know some of you all would be happy if we gave the doggone part of the state to Arkansas,” Rep. Raumesh Akbari, said. “Arkansas would gladly take us. But I’ll tell you something: I don’t support this, and I think if you do it you’re being ugly. It’s not fair. Memphis is a part of Tennessee. I didn’t even realize how much y’all disliked Memphis till I got to this Legislature.”
It takes a nefarious group of people to punish a city for legally removing symbols of America’s racial hatred, and to specifically target the celebration of the birth of the city itself is especially nasty.