Madelyn Scales Harris addresses racism during Murfreesboro City Council meeting

Jun 10, 2020 at 07:00 am by Michelle Willard

Madelyn Scales Harris

Murfreesboro Vice Mayor Madelyn Scales Harris spoke about her experiences with racism in Murfreesboro and Rutherford County at the City Council meeting on June 4.

She spoke via Zoom about getting spit on, crosses burning her yard and a cousin who was lynched.

"This happened in the '50s and the' 60s," Harris said.

But it's not just a part of history. 

When she was first elected in 2010, her campaign manager had his tires slashed and a note that said "Niger lover." I saw the note and remember it for its misspelling.

Murfreesboro escaped much of the upheaval of the Civil Rights Movement because of the leadership provided by Robert "T-Ninny" Scales. He stood down protestors and worked with white leaders to keep violence from the streets.

Harris wants to do the same by using the funds from the sale of the Murfreesboro Electric Department to help heal the divisions created by systemic racism, which isn't a bad idea.

Just because we didn't have riots in the '60s doesn't mean we don't have systemic racism. Just look at the City Council itself. We had districts, called "Wards," until desegregation when the at-large system was enacted to dilute the Black vote.

MTSU political science professor Sekou Franklin said as much in a 2016 interview with me when I worked for the local daily. 

At-large representation make it more difficult for minorities to win a community-wide election, Franklin explained.

"If you have an at-large system, especially where minorities are segregated into neighborhoods, it allows for the majority population to consolidate votes around white candidates," Franklin said. Minority candidates also have to moderate their views when running across an entire city "to appeal to the mainstream set of white voters and distance themselves from black voters." 

This is how we get at least one city councilman defending the use of tear gas on a group of protestors, who were blocking traffic as they made their way to MTSU's Forrest Hall. They intended to demonstrate against the naming of a building on campus after the Confederate general.

But I digress.

If you want to hear Harris's heart-wrenching story, it's cued up below.


Note: anti-racism is the worst, most pervasive form of racism, just as anti-struggle IS struggle
Note: I checked the YouTube video of this meeting. How does the council expect to get feedback when the comments are turned OFF? That's a bit tyrannical, wouldn't you say?
That's one thing we agree on, Dick. I don't think the council cares what the public has to say.
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