NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee legislative Democrats say there was a missed opportunity on race issues in the just-finished session. This comes as Republican Governor Bill Lee maintains there are ongoing conversations with black leaders about what he has called “racial reconciliation.”
Beginning with George Floyd’s death in police custody, lawmakers across the country and in Tennessee have struggled for answers as protests large and small demand answers.
“I think it was a missed opportunity for the legislature,” said Nashville African-American Representative Harold Love in a video conference Thursday morning.
The Democrat spoke about what he hoped his fellow Democrats and the Republican supermajority would have had addressed in the just-completed session.
It begins with race and police.
“That would have put us on the track to talk about how we could de-escalate force,” said Rep. Love, “And how we could have had bias training.”
The series of police shootings that have prompted an international outcry brought Governor Lee to talk publicly about racial reconciliation at recent appearances.
“Meeting with folks who actually can listen to these voices of protesters and then bring about policy that will bring about substantive change,” said the governor on Tuesday. “It is very much connected to–because of the George Floyd killing-—it’s connected to how low enforcement engages with the community.”
Conversations about race have again turned in Tennessee to the potential removal of the state capitol’s 2nd floor bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
From protesters to state lawmakers, there’s been a call for action.
“The governor needs to make a decision about how many more conversations does he need to have?” asked Rep. Love during the video conference, “How many more people need to tell him their story about how the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust negatively impacts them on a daily basis?”
The governor has said that something with the bust needs to be done. The question remains when and what.
By law, the Tennessee Capitol Commission would be the first step to remove the Forrest bust, but there is no indication yet if it might take up the issue.