This member of Nashville’s Metro Council does not run from a controversial subject or hesitate to challenge her opposition, or even vote according to our preconceived notions. I’ve received two calls in as many years from Councilwoman Tanaka Vercher challenging my social media posts. The topic of the second call, just this morning, is concerned with a late-filed memorializing resolution introduced by Councilman-at-Large Bob Mendes in response to the events in Charlottesville, VA over the past weekend.
You see, Bob Mendes, a White male, is the author of an effort to stand against white supremacy and attempt to separate Nashville from the nation’s most recent display of racism (as he explains in this blog post). Tanaka Vercher, a Black female, voted against (and ultimately, delayed) the effort and naturally, I was thrown for a gigantic loop and tweeted as much.
No Email Dialogue for This Elected Official
In this morning’s call, the Navy veteran acknowledged my tweets and proceeded to calmly (and confidently) explain her opposition to the small, but optically vital gesture toward denouncing hate. Vercher offered many reasons for slowing down the resolution, but the one that resonated with me is the attempt to put lipstick on a pig (my words).
I wrote a blog post two days ago expressing my anger, not at Charlottesville, but the response to Charlottesville. American citizens expressing utter shock at the sight of tiki torches carried by a uniformed gang wearing white polos, khaki pants, and red MAGA hats. But, for many, Charlottesville is just another day in the land of perpetual and institutional racism. What has shaken me to my core is the cosmetic efforts to detach and decry the physical representation of the more nefarious and clandestine racism many of us deal with daily.
After our phone conversation, the councilwoman unwittingly forced me to reflect on my own feelings (which surprisingly aligns with her thinking) and question the intent and expectation of the resolution. Councilwoman Vercher’s quote in the Tennessean, “This is too serious of a matter to not have actionable legislation and what was proposed tonight doesn’t address the racial disparities that we have in the city.”
But It’s a Resolution, Councilwoman. Right?
In our conversation, Vercher listed ways Black and Brown Nashvillians are constantly discriminated against, noting specifically “our schools, unsafe working conditions for certain populations, and the paltry percentage of minority contracts awarded by local government (2.88%).” Further, “we are responsible for establishing the narrative within our communities and these issues were here long before Charlottesville.
Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done in Councilwoman Vercher’s position. What does one do with the responsibility of an entire city while trying to navigate personal feelings about a system setup to work against you? Is she obligated to support feel-good efforts that seek to give our city a pass when you know the real work lies outside the resolution and within our workplaces, churches, and social networks?
It wasn’t fair for me to judge her actions without first pausing to think that she, too, might be struggling with our current state of affairs. Whether we like it or not, she voted her conscious over political expediency. How easy could it have been to reject a resolution rejecting white supremacy?
So while the halting of the resolution doesn’t help those looking for ways to respond to the tiki torches, it does force each of us to look beyond Charlottesville and take an assessment of our own back yard.
And with that, I’ll have a cup of tea and wait for the next call from the distinguished councilwoman from southeast Nashville.