Tennessee just showed that white supremacy is alive and wellRoundup
tags: racism, Tennessee, White Supremacy
Keisha N. Blain is associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, editor-in-chief of The North Star and author of "Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom."
An obscure Tennessee law required Gov. Bill Lee to declare this past Saturday “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day” to commemorate the Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader. But Lee went further, admitting he had not even considered whether the law should be changed. His actions drew sharp criticism from politicians throughout the country, including ultraconservative U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).
Lee’s refusal to call for changing the law and the fact that Tennessee still celebrates Forrest are a stark reminder that white supremacy is alive and well. For those who have fallen for the “post-racial society” myth, Lee’s declaration may be a wake-up call. But for everyone else, Lee’s declaration is just another reminder that white supremacy is deeply entrenched in American society.
By paying homage to a horrific figure like Forrest, Tennessee is disrespecting its black citizens and signaling that it would rather uphold its racist past than grapple with its many toxic legacies.
Forrest has been deeply embedded in that racist legacy for more than 150 years. The political question of his time was one that had starkly divided Americans since the founding: slavery. So fundamental was slavery to Southern states that seven of them seceded from the Union after Abraham Lincoln’s election on Nov. 6, 1860. The thought of a president entering office who might bring an end to slavery — although Lincoln made no such promise — sent Confederate leaders into a frenzy.
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