Republicans in the Tennessee state legislature are again being accused of racism for how they have seemingly handled two of the state’s most famous residents differently. The most recent situation started as legislators attempted to honor two award-winning musical acts from the state.

The current controversy of the Tennessee General Assembly began when state Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, offered resolutions to honor two Tennessee-based musical acts who recently won at the Grammy Awards. Paramore won awards for best rock album and best alternative performance at the ceremony. Allison Russell received the best American roots performance award for “Eve Was Black.” The resolution to recognize Paramore passed without objection; however, House Republican Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, objected to the resolution for Russell. This move, which sent the resolution for Russell back to committee, is often used to kill bills in the legislature.

While Faison and other Republicans have yet to give a reason for the different outcomes, many have noted that Russell is a queer Black woman, whereas the members of Paramore are white. Furthermore, Russell and Paramore lead singer Hayley Williams have been outspoken in their left-leaning politics and criticism of Republicans, implying that the snub against Russell wasn’t based on her political leanings. Paramore’s lead singer recently addressed the controversy and its racial implications. Williams told The Tennessean, “For those that don’t know, Allison Russell is an incredibly talented musician and songwriter. Her music spans genres with strong ties to the Folk/Americana scenes.” 

Williams added, “Oh, she is also Black. She’s a brilliant Black woman.” 

Her statement continued, “The blatant racism of our state leadership is embarrassing and cruel.”

Jones, who brought forth the resolutions for the two musical acts that led to the current controversy, was at the center of a similar situation last year. As Blavity reported, Republicans voted to expel Jones and fellow Tennessee Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, from their positions after they participated in a protest in the legislature’s chamber over gun reform. Controversially, Jones and Pearson, both young Black men, were expelled while an older white female colleague, Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, was allowed to keep her seat despite participating in the protest with them. The racial disparity caused a nationwide controversy that embarrassed the Tennessee Republican Party while raising the national profiles of Jones and Pearson, who were soon returned to their seats by voters in their respective districts.

Jones has unexpectedly found himself as part of a new round of drama in Tennessee politics. The latest controversial act by the Tennessee Republicans is having a similar impact as the previous one, embarrassing the state GOP and raising the profiles of their critics.