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Tennessee lawmakers pass costly penalty on Memphis for removing Confederate statues

Tennessee lawmakers took $250,000 from Memphis because the city removed Confederate statues from a park. The lawmakers cited multiple reasons for punishing Memphis. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Memphis is getting rid of some Confederate statues, but it's going to cost them after Tennessee state lawmakers voted to take $250,000 away from the city as punishment, according to The Hill.

"Today is a demonstration that bad actions have bad consequences, and my only regret about this is it's not in the tune of millions of dollars," said Republican state Rep. Andy Holt.

What's the story?

Memphis, a predominantly black city, found a legal way to get statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest out of city parks.

The city sold the parks to a nonprofit organization last year, which then removed the statues.

The move upset many lawmakers in the Republican-majority Tennessee state House, so the Legislature retaliated by passing a last-minute amendment to an appropriations bill taking away $250,000 from Memphis that was earmarked for the city's bicentennial celebration in 2019.

Why did lawmakers oppose removal of the statues?

Lawmakers cited multiple reasons for punishing Memphis. One representative said removing the statues was like erasing history, and "that's what ISIS does."

Another, Rep. Gerald McCormick, was unhappy that the city found a way within the law to remove the statues.

"And the law was very clear, and they got smart lawyers to figure out how to wiggle around the law, and I think that's what the issue is," McCormick said.

'We removed your God'

Memphis Rep. Antonio Parkinson, who is black, called the punishment racist and accused other lawmakers of taking money away from Memphis "because we removed your God from our grounds."

This writer's perspective

This is an example of lawmakers maliciously wielding their legislative power to punish a city for governing itself (within the law) according to the will of its residents.

Upset that "smart lawyers" were able to facilitate the removal of these historical monuments, lawmakers ironically decided to take the funding away from Memphis' celebration of 200 years of history.

The argument that the removal of statues constitutes the erasure of history has always been asinine, as is the notion that a visible public representation of a Ku Klux Klan leader is so necessary to a community that its removal warrants financial punishment.

As for comparisons of statue removal to the actions of ISIS, it takes only a very basic understanding of history to conclude that the brutal, violent, racist oppression by the Confederacy and the KKK against African-Americans is far more terroristic than anything the Memphis City Council will ever do.

Black people in America, particularly in the South, are often told to forget about and move on from slavery, racism, and the systematic inequality woven into the fabric of this nation's history. Stop bringing it up, they say. It was a long time ago.

But remove those monuments that make it difficult move on, that conjure up images of enslaved and murdered ancestors, that stir feelings of fear and bitterness and resentment, and you get compared to terrorists. Damned if you remember, damned if you forget.

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