As of April 12, the two Black Tennessee lawmakers who were expelled because of a protest of the lack of legislative action against gun violence have been reinstated to their seats. Justin Pearson got his seat back after a unanimous vote from seven members of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, and Justin Jones was voted back to his seat on April 10.
Congressman Hank Johnson spoke with rolling out about his thoughts on the lawmakers initially being expelled.
As a congressman, what were your thoughts on the Tennessee lawmakers being expelled?
The action taken by the Tennessee House of Representatives in expelling two young Black males, and letting the White female who was also in jeopardy of being expelled pass is not a good look. It stinks to high heaven. It’s a bad omen for what’s going on in this country insofar as the relationship between Black people and people of color, and White males in this country and their supporters. What we saw was the raw abuse of power by a White male-dominated Maga Republican House legislature in Tennessee. They took the action because they could, and they didn’t care who was watching, they didn’t care what impact it would have. They didn’t care if it was a bad look, or if it smelled bad. They were just going to do it to prove the point that they were in control.
The reason given for the expulsion was you violated the rules of decorum for the House. A valid argument can be made that House rules were violated but should you automatically go to the most drastic remedy available to you, which is expulsion, wouldn’t sending a message by way of censure or a referral to the House Ethics Committees?
The White woman was let go, but the two Black males were hung, and that’s what has happened throughout history in this country. We see history repeating itself, but only it was not in terms of a physical lynching and stringing somebody up to a tree. But it was an expulsion, depriving the citizens who sent those two young Black males to represent them of any representation in the House of Representatives.