Tennessee Gov. Honors First KKK Grand Wizard With Holiday, Says He's Just Following Orders
Today, July 13th, is both Barbershop Music Appreciation Day and International Skinny Dipping Day, making it the perfect day to get some friends together, get naked, and sing Sweet Adeline at the top of your lungs. Unless you live in Tennessee, where by proclamation of Republican Governor Bill Lee, it is Nathaniel Bedford Forrest Day, a day honoring a noted slave trader and the very first Grand Wizard of the KKK.
I would recommend not celebrating that at all, in any way whatsoever.
The holiday was not Gov. Lee's own personal idea, he explained to reporters, but rather the law of the land — and yet, he did not express any desire to change said law of the land.
Via The Tennnessean:
"I signed the bill because the law requires that I do that and I haven't looked at changing that law," Lee said Thursday.
He declined to say whether he believed state law should be changed to no longer require the governor to issue such proclamations or whether he had reservations about doing so.
A previous effort by Democrats to do so was unsuccessful.
"I haven't even looked at that law, other than knowing I needed to comply with it, so that's what I did," Lee said. "When we look at the law, then we'll see."
The bill signed by Gov. Lee says only that Forrest was a "a recognized military figure in American history and native Tennessean," making no mention of the whole slave trader/Grand Wizard thing.
Since 1969, Tennessee Governors have been required by law to issue proclamations for days honoring not only Forrest, but also Jefferson Davis (June 3) and Robert E. Lee (January 19th). These days were official state holidays up until that point, starting in 1921, six years following the premiere of Birth of a Nation, which set off a resurgence of the KKK throughout the American South.
In Alabama, the days honoring Davis and Lee are still state holidays, because Alabama.
That being said, what even would have happened if he did not sign that proclamation? Would anyone have even noticed? I mean, sure, maybe there are a few people out there keeping track of that shit, planning their barbecues, getting all tingly each year to see the Governor honor the first Grand Wizard of the KKK... but how many of them could there possibly be?
Would he have been sent to jail? Probably not! He probably would not have lost his job as Governor either. If anything, it probably would have garnered a whole lot of positive publicity for him. Unlike Davis and Lee, there has never been a significant attempt to whitewash Forrest's reputation.
Even Ted Cruz thought it was a bad idea (which is really saying something), though exclusively as an attempt to smear Democrats by pointing out that Forrest had been one at a time when the Democratic party was a very different thing than it is today.
This is a lot like saying that the real problem with Ted Bundy was that he was a Republican delegate at the 1968 GOP convention, and then casually mentioning the fact that he also murdered at least 30 women as an afterthought, as a way to suggest that perhaps all Republicans are serial killers. Then again, Democratic Governors also do not go around declaring Ted Bundy's birthday a state holiday on the regular.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse