Tennessee Dems Call Out ‘Racial Dynamic’ That Fueled Expulsion From House
Democratic Tennessee State Rep. Gloria Johnson survived a vote to expel her from the House on Thursday — two of her colleagues, Reps. Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson, both Black men, did not. The three lawmakers, who participated in a protest calling for gun control legislation after a school shooting in Nashville, are pointing to race as the deciding factor between the outcomes of the votes.
Tennessee Republicans, who hold a supermajority in the house, moved to oust the three from the legislature and only failed to secure the votes necessary to remove Johnson by one vote.
Pearson did not mince words in his statement to reporters outside of the chamber. “You cannot ignore the racial dynamic of what happened today,” he said. “Two young Black lawmakers get expelled and the one white woman does not? That is a statement in and of itself.”
In a speech on the house floor, Jones accused Republicans of attempting a “power grab by silencing the two youngest Black representatives, and one of the only [Democratic women] in this body.”
Jones responded to a statement from Republican Rep. Gino Bulso, who argued for his expulsion based on his “conduct.”
“While my [Republican] colleague’s statement was eloquent, what you are essentially saying is that ‘Justin is an uppity negro’” Jones said.
“How dare he point at the Speaker and call a lie a lie, how dare he act like he’s your equal, how dare he come before this body and not bow down. That’s what Representative Bulso was saying,” Jones told legislators, adding that Bulso had previously called him a “disgrace” while together in an elevator days before.
When asked why she thought she had been allowed to remain in her post, Johnson indicated that she believed race had played a factor in lawmakers’ decision.
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“I’ll answer your question; it might have to do with the color of our skin,” Johnson told reporters outside of the House chambers, adding that she was prepared to “fight hard” to get her colleagues back in office.
Jones and Pearson will both be able to run for their seats in a special election, but the pair have indicated that they have no plans to stop fighting for reform, and if given a chance would do it all again. “We will never shirk back from civil disobedience,” Pearson said, “Civil disobedience is what built this country.”