A travesty of justice for Justin is too on the mark and almost cliché at this point. However, it is hard to find another phrase that encompasses what happened in Tennessee on April 6, 2023. In case you missed it, don’t worry; you can pick up any history book, except in Florida, and find examples of what happened to Justin Jones and Justin Pearson. Tennessee House Republicans expelled both for breaking house rules and mounting a gun-reform protest on the chamber’s floor.
The reason this is a travesty is not because these two men are Black, intelligent, educated, and influential leaders. However, the imagery of old White men pointing fingers and demanding the heads of young Black men is powerful and is reminiscent of the olden days. Some would call those days back when America was great and believe we should work to make it that great again. But no, that is not the reason this event is a travesty. Removing these two young men should cause every American to stop and ask a fundamental question: does my vote count?
If voting is my civic duty and reflects my voice, what does it say about my voice when the State Legislature removes the representative that I voted for; when the Tennessee legislature rejects the person I voted for, they are rejecting my voice. They are denying my vote. So, please pardon my confusion when I hear the very well-intentioned Michelle Obama tell me, “We must vote; you must make your voice heard.” Well, the people of Nashville and Memphis did that, and how did that work out for them?
What happened in Tennessee should scare every American and call into question every person who tells them their vote matters. To be clear, as much as I respect Justin Jones and Justice Pearson, the events that took place on Thursday are not about them but about the American people. When the Tennessee legislator kicked those two men out of the chambers, they kicked the American people’s voices out. Those politicians told the American people that their voice matters if they think it is worth mattering. Your voice counts, as long as it isn’t too loud and doesn’t come sporting an afro or wearing a dashiki.
Your vote matters as long as it is a vote to uphold the status quo. The moment your vote disrupts or hinders the status quo, your voice suddenly diminishes. 200,000 Tennesseans lost their voice because their voice did not align with the status quo. Think about that the next time someone talks to you about voting.
In conclusion, I am not suggesting you do not vote. On the contrary, keep voting. However, vote for those who will shake up the status quo. Stop voting for those interested in keeping things the way they are. How is that working for you? How is your pay? How is your healthcare? How are the streets in your city? How are your taxes? How are your schools? How is crime in your city? How much debt do you have? How is the status quo treating you? So, why are you continually voting for it?
We keep voting for the status quo, and then we become hurt when the status quo lets us down. We must keep voting for those who will shake up the system. What happened in Tennessee is something I would expect in another country but not my country, the United States. Stop voting for the same and expecting a different result.
Vote differently, get different. Vote the same; you get the same.