An Open Letter to Tennessee Legislators


While some states in our nation are seeking racial equality and justice for all, Tennessee is demonstrably stuck in reverse. Today’s vote to keep the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue in the Tennessee State capitol building illustrates this tragic reality which is morally unconscionable.

As a faith leader, I cannot step aside or be silent.

For far too long, symbols of hate have continued to be heralded as historic treasures within the southern states. The truth is, they are vapid symbols of a lost cause – a cause that should have never been and a cause which should bring shame instead of pride. Would anyone even consider erecting a monument to Timothy McVeigh within the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City? He is inextricably a part of their history. Yet, just as surely, Nathan Bedford Forrest and other Confederate “heroes” sought to tear apart our nation, bringing death and despair to masses. 

Racism continues to bring death and despair to masses – generation to generation. It is a threat to the constitution of the United States. It should not be allowed in any of our political parties, nor should it be catered to. Elected officials are meant to lead us towards the ideals espoused in our founding documents. 

Additionally, legislators are elected to represent all people, yet today’s vote skews towards voters who are unwilling to accept complicity in the racism that has diminished, threatened and obliterated black lives since the founding of our nation. Your vote represents not the democracy that our beloved state deserves, but an ethic of personal bias and protection.

Our Creator made all persons with the Divine Image. As a clergy person, I am not exempt from the sins of racism, but by God’s grace, I can repent – turning away from that which is wrong and move towards a future of light and love for all.

I call upon you to do the same – through your job. The systems you create – or keep – will either move us beyond racism or keep us bound to it. One day, history will reflect your choice. 

Rev. N. Neelley Hicks
United Methodist Clergy
Tennessee/Western Kentucky UMC

About N. Neelley Hicks

A social innovator in communication strategies & technologies for global development, Neelley is the founder of Harper Hill Global. Check out her game-changing work: harperhill.global.
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