The Tennessee legislature just voted out two of its duly-elected members because they had the audacity to break rules for decorum and protest on the House floor.
They were joining the chorus of protests happening in the rotunda, where thousands of amazing young people have been showing up to vocally and peacefully protest for gun reform.
All of this, of course, follows a mass shooting in a Nashville schoolhouse.
Expulsion of these members is unprecedented. No representative in the state has ever been removed for an “offense” of this nature (one that is not a crime, but rather a rules violation).
Republicans compared their peaceful protest to the Jan. 6th insurrection. There is no comparison.
This is a theft of democracy. It nullifies the votes of tens of thousands of people.
The two members voted out were young Black men, both Democrats. And both were newly elected in November, having only been sworn in four months ago.
They were voted out by a House that is majority white, male, and Republican.
Those same voters spared a third member who participated in their protest, a white woman who is also a Democrat. Rep. Gloria Johnson believes she was saved because of the color of her skin.
The racism is blatant. The threat to democracy is terrifying.
The message is clear: Act in a way that the white majority doesn’t like, and you will be silenced.
This is how racist patriarchy works to protect white privilege and power. Everything I want to help dismantle—the driving force behind my work as an intersectional feminist coach—and I’m watching it in action in real time.
If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, thinking talk about democracy being under attack are overblown, it’s time to pay attention.
I’m not in Tennessee, but I am in a red state with a Republican supermajority. I know my own lawmakers are taking notes on how they, too, can wield their power to invalidate Democratic voters.
And even if you are in a blue state, a threat to democracy in any state is a threat to the future of our nation.
Vote. Let your elected officials know what you stand for. Protest. Donate your time and/or money to organizations fighting for our lives.
Use your voice, especially if you are a person with privilege, to speak up for democracy and for humanity.
And if this has you feel too discouraged, there’s also some good news. The protests, largely led by young people, are growing in TN. Young people are mad as hell, and they aren’t going to just sit back and take it.
Also, keep your eyes on now former Rep. Justin Pearson. He is going to help change the world.
Becky Mollenkamp is an accountability coach for feminist founders who want to pursue their goals in a way that actually feels good.