Tennessee Fails to Condemn Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and the Alt-Right…because to do so would be “Divisive”
Posted on 2018-03-16
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but presently, we live in a world where morality and ethics are increasingly seen as solely relative. This has allowed pleas for morality when it comes to our interactions with each other to simply be ‘liberal buzzwords’ and ‘emotional pleas,’ from those who fight for human rights and legislative decency and/or justice. No longer is this a debate amongst philosophers, but apparently, the debate has ended.
This is troubling.
I cannot think of any instance, where the persecution of someone based on race, for instance, is morally ‘relative’ versus ‘universal.’ Can you?
In this climate, to question the morality of a white supremacist is considered ‘bashing.’ Therefore, it is implied that we must take a neutral stance when interacting with their beliefs, because condemning it is simply a ‘disagreement,’ which implies that there is something to their beliefs which is valid or not wrong (because nothing can be ‘wrong’).
This neutral tendency for white supremacist beliefs also plagues the “ivory tower.” Not just amongst students and administrators who hold these beliefs, but also by professors aiming to ‘not offend’ in their classes. This undoubtedly helps with the legitimization of these despicable views—which are inherently immoral, abhorrent, and disgraceful—as simply ‘self-expression(s).’
On February 28th, as I sat in my grad course, my professor aimed to defend the indefensible—not because he “agrees with it,” but to not just “throw [an author’s] argument away.” The conversation went like this, verbatim:
Prof: it doesn’t take into account whether the alt-right is wrong or not—
Me: that’s not even a question of whether I think it’s wrong or not, it’s literally a “self-expression” which has structural and institutional implications as to whether or not some people should live or be discarded from societies
And if you’re wondering, then yes: class discussions in grad school are actually like this.
So, why did I just give you this long tangent before I getting into the topic of discussion for this blog post?
Simple. First, I want you to know my stance on the issue up-front; and Second, because those in the house who commented after not putting the notion up to vote, tried to make a ‘relative’ argument.
Here’s what happened:
On Wednesday March 14, 2018 Tennessee legislators declined to vote on a resolution (House Joint Resolution 583) that would denounce White Nationalism, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and the Alt-Right within their state. Because they declined to vote on the resolution, it did not even need to be discussed on the floor of the House Subcommittee.
The resolution was proposed by Representative Jon Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) last year in August 2017 after the White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville, VA (Unite the Right), which killed one anti-racist protestor and injured several others (after a white supremacist drove his car into the anti-racist protestors). Shelbyville,TN was also the October 2017 site of the second largest “White Lives Matter” rally. During this time, Rep Bill Haslman (R-Knoxville) denounced the rally , stating that those who participated were “not welcome in Tennessee” and he denounced the White Supremacist Movement.
Clemmons proposal aimed to recognize, via the courts and police, White Supremacist groups as domestic terrorists. Stating that these ideologies “remain very real threats to social and racial progress.” Ideally, he wanted his state to market clear that they were anti the actions of White Supremacists.
Why This Matters
The bill could not have presented itself at such an opportune time. On Sunday, March 12, 2018, Identity Evropa (IE), a Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist organization, held its first national conference—“Leading Our People Forward 2018”—in Nashville, TN. During the conference, they displayed a large banner which read “European Roots, American Greatness” in front of the Parthenon in Nashville. This symbolism is not to be mistaken.The goal of the conference was in line with its ideology that “advocates for the preservation of Western (read: white) culture.” Part of this pursuit is to help get themselves closer to “a white ethnostate [that] opposes multiculturalism.” IE is inspired by the European identitarian movement. Its speakers included older members of the alt-right “American Renaissance editor Jared Taylor and former Ku Klux Klan lawyer Sam Dickson, both of whom are members of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the white nationalist hate group that inspired Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. Taylor praised IE members for as being “smart, committed, sensible, and impressive in every way.”” The question remains: given Tennessee’s current—and past—situation with these abhorrent groups, why did this bill not get passed or even make it to discussion?
The Blame Game— cue, Relativism
House Joint Resolution 583 which condemned white-hate groups was rejected without any explanation because, according to some Tennessee Republicans, “the resolution was a trap, written to embarrass them.”
^That was my face too when this reasoning came out. How is a resolution that condemns White-Supremacy, ‘embarrassing’?? Apparently, one lawmaker thought that using the term ‘terrorist’ for White-Supremacist organizations and group identities was “vague and designed to be divisive.”
The Resolution in Full Context
In its full context, the resolution stated that it wanted to:
“urge law enforcement to recognize these white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups as terrorist organizations and to pursue the criminal elements of these domestic terrorist organizations in the same manner and with the same fervor used to protect the United States from other manifestations of terrorism.“
The reasoning behind the language, according to the resolution, was because present-day manifestations of the alt-right “conjure painful memories of our nation’s past.” This painful past, according to the resolution saw White Nationalism and Neo-Nazism as “menaces to societal order that seek to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide the nation, and foment hatred, classism, anti-Semitism, and ethnic eradication.”
Does the Language in the Resolution go too Far?
The answer is no.
The resolution is very straight forward and factual. In literally uses the past history of the U.S. as the impetus for legislative improvement in Tennessee. We are not that removed from knowing that the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), was a domestic race-based terrorist organization.
Due to the massive amount of attention that the rejected resolution received, Tennessee Lawmakers—that are overwhelmingly Republican—now want it to be filed for a second motion. Because ‘of course’ they agree that White Supremacism is ‘bad.’
I don’t know what if I believe that, but I am interested in seeing what happens next.