Today in news that makes you go “Why did it take Black death for this to happen?” the Tennessee Historical Commission voted 25-1 to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest—the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan—from the state capitol.
The Tennessean reports that the effort to remove the bust began last summer during the protests against police brutality and systemic violence. While Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) was against removing the monument as recently as 2019, he publicly called for the bust to be removed from the state Capitol last July. Lee is said to have worked extensively behind the scenes to make sure that the votes were there for the bust to be removed.
Lee even submitted a video to the commission ahead of the vote in which he said, “Forrest represents pain, suffering and brutal crimes committed against African Americans, and that pain is very real for our fellow Tennesseans as they walk the halls of our statehouse and evaluate how he could be one of just the nine busts elevated to a place of reverence.”
The vote was held after a five-hour meeting where people in the community made their case for and against removing the bust. The argument of those in favor of removing the bust was basically “He was the leader of the KKK.” Those against removal argued that it represented history.
I don’t get the argument that just because something or someone existed we still have to honor them. That argument basically boils down to “Yeah he may have been a racist who formed one of the most hateful groups to ever exist, and sure he profited off the subjugation and brutalization of Black bodies, but, you know, history.”
Times change, views change, and I don’t understand why there’s even an argument around people going, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t celebrate the leader of the KKK.” Wait, what am I even saying here, of course I understand. White folks gonna white folk, it’s as simple as that.
According to WREG, not everyone was in agreement with the vote, and there are concerns by some Republican legislators that the commission broke the law by removing a statue protected by the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act. Man, any time white people are pressed about “heritage,” it’s always on some racist shit. Granted, American history has generally been on some racist shit.
The bust is now slated to be moved from the Capitol and into a state museum, though the timeline of the removal is still unclear.