Discover more from the B|E note
One Key Reason Why the Expulsion of the Two Black Tennessee Representatives Was a Good Thing
theGrio: At a time when most Americans don't know what's happening in their state capitals, the expulsion of the "two Justins" offers a civics lesson on the importance of state legislatures
From theGrio …
In the grand scheme of things, hear me out: The recent expulsion of Tennessee state legislators Justin Jones (D-Nashville) and Justin Pearson (D-Memphis) wasn’t such a bad thing. Undoubtedly, it caught our attention and it uncomfortably harkened us back to the days our older grandparents and great-grandparents talked about. But, we desperately needed something jarring and unexpected like this not just in terms of how such mistreatment can happen to anyone as privileged as a lawmaker, but in terms of how much we’re paying (or not paying) attention to what’s happening in our state capitals.
We needed a civics literacy moment.
We’ve heard a variety of takes on what the two Justins’ expulsion from their House floor in Nashville now means — from the political dimensions (Democrats have struck election gold with something they can use to rally Black voters in 2024) to the potential public policy shifts (Can progressives pass bills in conservative chambers?). Yet, the take that’s getting overlooked is the most obvious: Do Americans even know what’s happening in their respective state legislatures, much less who their state legislators are?
“Citizens must be aware of what’s happening in their state legislatures because it’s state lawmakers making decisions directly affecting their lives, including policies related to education, health care, taxes, and criminal justice,” says New York state Sen Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn), chair for the eastern region’s Council of State Governments’ Council on Communities of Color. “When you are knowledgeable about your state legislature’s actions and decisions, you are better equipped to hold your elected officials accountable.”
As we’re watching the Florida legislature pass permitless gun carry laws, or numerous states passing everything from anti-trans bills to abortion restrictions, most Americans lack the basic civic literacy to understand if these types of legislations are happening in their state, another state or if it’s the nation’s capital up to its usual dysfunction.