Nathan Bedford Forrest bust still an issue

William T. Robinson, Jr.

The Nathan Bedford Forrest bust located in the Tennessee Capitol Building in downtown Nashville still remains a controversial topic, especially among the Black population of Tennessee. The bust has been an object of protest and public outrage. The Tennessee State Capitol Commission voted nine to two to remove the bust, and the Tennessee Capitol Historical Committee will decide on its new location. However, a significant amount of time has passed and the bust still remains in the Capitol even after many Confederate monuments and statues have been removed in other surrounding southern cities and states.

Why the procrastination? Is the state of Tennessee trying to make a statement that racism and White supremacy are still top priorities for the dominant Republican base in the state of Tennessee? I say this because the only right thing to do is to remove the bust with expediency, knowing that every day it remains is a slap in the face for Tennessee’s African Americans. And please, Confederate loyalists, don’t continue to try to justify and rationalize that it’s a part of our southern historical heritage and legacy—as if it were something to be proud of.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was an insurrectionist, a Confederate general and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He was also the general responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Black Union soldiers slaughtered after surrendering at Fort Pillow in Tennessee.

Sometimes actions put one on the wrong side of history. Forrest is not to be publicly celebrated and honored. No one is saying Confederate veterans should not be acknowledged by their descendants—but not at the expense of the pain, hurt and suffering felt by Black descendants of slaves. Publicly honoring these Confederates is appalling and insulting.

The long drawn out process to remove the Forrest bust speaks volumes regarding the efforts Tennessee lawmakers have made to continue to promote the premise that White supremacy and racism is alive and kicking in the state of Tennessee. The lack of expediency to remove this insulting bust is an assault and blatant mockery of the values of respect, decency, and equality that we are seeking to achieve and promote in this racially divided country.

Tennessee should take note and move forward, recognizing that the Black Lives Matter Movement has come about because of so many Whites trivialize the worth of people of color. Make no mistake, but the visibility of Confederate monuments and statues only exacerbates the racial rift ever present in our country.

Many African American Tennesseans claim they are mocked and ridiculed by their friends and family in northern states about what is seen as the blatantly racist representation of some of our Tennessean lawmakers—especially Martha Blackburn, whom many refer to as the female version of Donald Trump. Continuing to display the Forrest bust in the Tennessee state Capitol only serves to justify to some that Tennessee continues to be reluctant to remove a unifying sign catering to White supremacy and racism.

The problem can be easily resolved by removing the Forrest bust as voted on by the Tennessee Historical Commission panel March 9 as quickly as possible to its proposed location in the state museum. Enough time has elapsed discussing the bust. Action is warranted. The continuing presence of the bust in the Tennessee State Capitol is only raising red flags and promoting racial tension—causing some people to question the procrastination.

All Tennesseans should be given dignity and respect. African Americans in Tennessee have been more than patient. Now stop delaying and do the right thing. Let’s rectify this problem with expediency (like yesterday).