Written to a high school History teacher...
I do not know if my thoughts will add value to your instruction, but I really appreciate the
opportunity to express them with someone inside the classroom, thank you so much for
My thoughts about the TN expulsion: Given the history of race relations in this country it is
easy to see the obvious racist aspects of the legislature’s actions. I could be wrong and
really hope that I am, but I think it is too easy for younger people of color especially at the
high school level to see and call out the racist and sexist aspects of Tennessee’s action and
My deep concern is they will simply stop there without understanding the much larger
threat to the idea of justice in an unrealized true democracy. Many authors and speakers
have written and commented that America is an idea. I agree as we are still struggling to
make the eloquent words and principles of the Declaration of Independence (a) true and
(b) apply to all.
The actions of the TN legislature in expelling those elected representatives is a
continuation of a deliberate process to disenfranchise voters across the state of Tennessee.
Historically, gerrymandering has been the process used to disenfranchise selected voters.
Whether intended or not the face of gerrymandering is seen as actions taken by powerful,
wealthy, connected white males. That alone makes it hard to see the much bigger threat
for young people.
Data suggests that Tennessee at the state level is one of the most gerrymandered states in
the country. It is that gerrymandering that allowed the majority party, republicans in this
case, to be confident that they could expel elected representatives without consequence.
Their confidence in avoiding any consequence of their action is demonstrated by their
bypassing any ethical procedural processes and going directly to expulsion. That level of
confidence parallels the confidence of lynch mobs, confident there would be no
repercussions for their extra-judicial actions.
I think it is the end results and consequences of gerrymandering that have caused so many
younger eligible voters to lose hope in the vote. Gerrymandered politicians only address
the issues of their constituents that they, the politicians, pre-selected to vote for them. The
other constituents are disregarded and left to fend for themselves on really important
issues. Far too many younger people have lost hope in the democratic process that their
ancestors fought so hard and sacrificed so much for. They see themselves as constituents
without representation because of the unabated disenfranchisement of their votes.
We of the older generation may dispute their cries, “my vote doesn’t count, it will make no
difference, it doesn’t matter”. While this is not true, their lived reality is that it is very true
that their vote and voice do not count.
Where does all of this leave us in the aftermath of Tennessee’s expulsions? From every
corner of the country there are the cries of proud support for the actions of the Tennessee
Three and a very special sense of pride in the two Justin’s. Nevertheless, those actions of
the Tennessee Legislature expelling them have just as many expressing pride and support
for that action and it is serving to empower other republican controlled state legislatures
and governing bodies to take similar actions.
To be sure we live in a political society based on the principle of a representative form of
government and change is brought through that process, culminating with the right to
petition for the redress of grievances when the representation does not work. If that
process fails, then the alternatives eventually lead to violent confrontation.
Studies reveals that most non-voting Americans lean much closer to the ideals and values
expressed in the nation’s founding documents. The new uphill battle then is to convince
younger people why they must become engaged in the political process or prepare to see
more expulsion-like behavior which will eventually lead to violent confrontations and a
real risk of losing any sense of democracy in this country.
My study of recent American history leads me to conclude that each time this country has
made a major shift toward the Beloved Country, it has been the force and the voice of
young people. I pray this time will be no different.