Louisiana’s black lawmakers gathered Tuesday morning at the State Capitol to express their disdain for the passing of House Bill 71, which will make it more difficult to remove public military memorial.
HB71, a bill that would require a popular election to approve local governments’ decisions about city-owned monuments on city-owned property, was passed through the House of Representatives with a vote of 65-31. Members of the Black Caucus said this vote reveals “a deep-rooted belief in white supremacy.”
“What the passage of HB71 really revealed was that there is still present, in Louisiana, a deep rooted belief in white supremacy and a desire to revere those who fought against the United Stated States of America in the American Civil War,” said Representative Joseph Bouie (D-NO), chair of the Black Caucus.
Lawmakers present at the briefing Tuesday included all legislative Black Caucus members from the House and a few members from the Senate.
“This bill is nothing but a Trojan horse designed to supersede the decision making authority of local municipalities regarding use of public space,” Bouie said.
Bouie went on to say that the Black Caucus is “offended and deeply wounded” by the passing of the bill as it relates to race relations in Louisiana.
“We were and are wounded because the bill attempts to rewrite history by honoring those who not only rebelled against the United States but who fought to maintain man’s greatest inhumanity to man–the system of slavery where our ancestors were considered property, less than human, women raped and abused, men slaughtered at will, and system’s implemented to facilitate cultural genocide,” Bouie said.
Bouie pointed out that the legislature should be focused on quality of life issues such as the looming budget, education, equal pay for women, living wage, criminal justice reform, and health care. He said Louisiana is lagging behind the country in too many areas, and the legislature should be providing legislation for that, as well as leadership to unite the people of Louisiana.
The Legislative Black Caucus is now asking the Senate and the Governor to stop the bill, as it is “an instrument of division.”
“Its awakening. I received a call from someone who says their children in high school watched it and were very upset. African American children don’t understand why legislators would seek to honor people who sought to divide and killed many African Americans just because they were black,” Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) said.
Bouie said that Rep. Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge) was told by a fellow representative to “grow up and get over slavery”, so now they are “clear about the divisiveness that this bill and it’s issues are about.”
“When the lady came in and told us to grow up and get over slavery. It was an insult then. It sat the tone for a very divisive bill in the committee and it continued on yesterday,” Rep. C. Denise Marcelle (D-Baton Rouge) said. “We are on the losing end of so many things. We are last in education, we are high in incarceration. We don’t need to be known as a state that’s moving backwards towards racism.”
Members of the Black Caucus said they walked out after the bill passed Monday to show their disappointment that “such a divisive bill was voted on by house members and moved forward,” but they are now ready to get back to work of the people and unite with legislature members.
“It’s not about war heroes. It’s not about that they’re saying. It’s really about usurping the power of the local municipalities regarding uses of its public space, but they’re using this issue to deal with covert, not overt, belief in white supremacy,” Bouie said.
Bouie ended by saying that there has to be healing, and they will be having conversations with Senate members about the bill.