by Rhiana Anthony
This editorial is a calling out to call-in and hold the people who hold power in this city accountable for the realities they create. I first heard about the series of altercations that took place within the Cayce community through the Tennessean. As I read through the story, I was immediately disheartened and infuriated by the state violence that the residents of Cayce would be subjected to in the coming days and weeks. I do not use the word violence lightly. Any practice or strategy that justifies dehumanization and implies racist assumptions of criminality is violence. The plan that has been devised to make Cayce “safer” is really just police occupation and state-sanctioned surveillance. The coded word “resources” is flippantly being used to describe the installation of 150 surveillance cameras, monitoring by an MNPD helicopter, and a substantial increase in police presence. Although it was an unfortunate occurrence in the community, the aggressive infiltration of MNPD in Cayce is exaggerated and reactionary.
What has been most upsetting to me is the hypocritical politics of Mayor Megan Barry throughout this whole ordeal. Mayor Barry ran her mayoral campaign on the backs of Nashville progressives, organizers, and activists that wanted to see a new Nashville. A change from business as usual. Barry has talked a good game, so far but is beginning to engage in behaviors that look a lot like the old establishment. In Mayor Barry’s progressive election campaign and platform, she vowed that she would look at policing and criminal justice differently. A standing room only crowd witnessed this at the Nashville Mayoral Forum hosted by the Nashville to End the New Jim Crow in April 2015. Barry describes how she felt as she read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” as “eye-opening” and condemned “the systematic way that the criminal justice system has failed African-Americans.” She went on to talk about how officials like her had the power to remove as much bias as possible and should use it. Mayor Barry used her power irresponsibly this week. In reaction to the events of the Cayce incident, Mayor Barry articulates in the press conference that she would support prosecution to the fullest extent of the law for run-ins with law enforcement. She continues to verbally cosign the problematic strategies and tactics of the Metro Nashville Police Department. This misaligns with a lot of the ideals and values that she has proclaimed to purport.
This is in the context of a lot of politics that are currently operating in Nashville and around the country centered on disproportionate policing of black and brown bodies, the dissolution of public housing, and gentrification. The fair housing wars are escalating and the city government is on the wrong side of it targeting Nashville’s poorest and blackest. Nashville’s government needs a moral readjustment. What officials say and do in meetings and forums must materialize in practice and policy. Our lives depend on your integrity.
Rhiana Anthony, M. Ed., is a youth trauma and grief specialist and member of Black Lives Matter Nashville. Rhiana has a Masters in Community Development and Action from Vanderbilt University.