In this Jan. 10, 2012 file photo, Rep. Sheila Butt, lower right, listens as Gov. Bill Haslam talks in Nashville, Tenn. The Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus has said Butt should apologize for a Facebook post they say is racist.
Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP

A step backwards for diversity in Tennessee

Tennessee’s Republican-led legislature this week took up funding for the state’s Economic Council on Women, created nearly 20 years ago. It didn’t go well.
 
State Sen. Mike Bell, the Republican chairman of Tennessee’s Government Operations Committee, asked the council’s executive director this week, “[W]ith women making up 51 percent of the population of the state, why don’t we have a men’s economic council?” He added, after mentioning a variety of other groups, “If you’re going to do an economic council, why not have it cover everybody?”
 
The committee soon after voted not to fund the state Economic Council on Women going forward.
 
As disappointing as this was for many, it arguably wasn’t the most offensive recent development out of the Tennessee legislature. This was.
The Tennessee Legislature’s Black Caucus is calling on state Rep. Sheila Butt to apologize and be dismissed from her leadership role for what members are calling a racist remark on her Facebook page in which she allegedly advocated for creating an NAAWP, an acronym for the National Association for the Advancement of White People.
 
Butt, a Republican floor leader, reportedly posted: “It is time for a Council on Christian Relations and an NAAWP in this Country,” according to The Associated Press. She allegedly wrote the entry in January, but it resurfaced this week before being deleted.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R), pictured above alongside Butt, has criticized the member of the Tennessee House GOP leadership, but said he’d leave it to her to determine whether or not to apologize.
 
That seems unlikely at this point. Butt has said she was recommending a National Association for the Advancement of Western People, not White People. Yesterday, the Republican state lawmaker added that she’s offended by others feeling offended.
 
“There’s nothing in that post that applies to race. Nothing,” Butt said told The Tennesseean. “I guess I’m offended that all of these things are predicated on something that they, apparently, the (House) Black Caucus, thinks I said or thinks I thought or thinks I insinuated. Not anything that’s true.”
 
Butt has also drawn criticism for raising concerns about biracial dating, homosexuality, and evolutionary biology.
 
As for her idea for a NAAWP, she also told The Tennessean that “in a lot of cases,” her culture is underrepresented.
There are 133 lawmakers in the Tennessee General Assembly. All but five publicly identify as Christian, and 86 percent are white, according to an analysis from Nashville Public Radio. The Tennessean asked Butt if she thought the overwhelming majority of white Christian lawmakers at the statehouse advocated for the group she feels is underrepresented.
 
“And who stands up for that group?” Butt responded. She never answered the question.
Imagine that.
 

Tennessee

A step backwards for diversity in Tennessee