We certainly can't say that American's racial unrest is going quietly into the night — or going quietly anywhere.
Frankly, that's a good thing. As individuals, or a city, or a county, or a state and certainly a nation, we must talk about race in America. To do that, we need to be leaders, not trollers. Reformers, not jailers.
But rather than conversation, it seems we have fires — literal and figurative — all around us. And there can be no doubt that some are sparked by the lit matches Donald Trump keeps throwing on the gasoline his rhetoric and dog whistles spread.
Then he feigns innocence: "And I say very modestly that I have done more for the African-American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president."
Of course he hasn't. Nor will he. That's why so many of us — of every color — have taken to the streets in peaceful and sometimes not-so-peaceful protests this year.
That's why more Black leaders like the usually soft-spoken Yusuf Hakeem, one of Chattanooga's state representatives, are boldly speaking out to air frustrations with Republican Gov. Bill Lee for not meeting with Black Caucus members before an Aug. 12-17 special legislative session at which the GOP super majority rushed through a bill making it a felony for demonstrators to camp on state property.
It's also why Hakeem and other Black Tennessee legislators are condemning Lt. Gov. Randy McNally over his reposting of a Facebook meme they say encourages "vigilante-type justice" against the Black Lives Matter and antifa movements.
Last week, upset state lawmakers said Lee ignored their efforts to meet with them on racial and social justice issues before the demonstration measure aimed at Black Lives Matter and other groups who had camped out at the Capitol to protest police brutality was expected to be considered. Those convicted could spend up to six years in prison. And remember, felons are barred from voting. The state's action made national news.
Black Caucus Chairman G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, said Lee ignored the group's Aug. 2 letter in advance of the session. Among other things, they sought to meet with Lee and mediate between the governor and demonstrators before lawmakers returned.
"We believe that if the governor had taken advantage of the offer that the Black Caucus had put on the table to serve as a mediary between the governor and those who were demonstrating for the matters of justice and equity and equality that a lot of the problems that arose on the plaza could have been avoided," Hardaway said.
Lee, a Republican, further incensed Black lawmakers when he later said he didn't respond to meeting requests because "we meet with those folks that are willing to work together to move forward." We wonder, did he deliberately borrow Trump's matches?
Hakeem told reporters: "Quite frankly, I take it as a badge of honor that he didn't want to speak with me or the other legislators. I think it says to our community that we were willing to say to him things that made him uncomfortable. That's unfortunate that he was not willing to talk with us on issues of great concern.
"We are legislators," Hakeem added, "we represent at least 65,000 people ourselves. And to attempt to essentially disenfranchise those persons does not speak well in my view of the governor."
Hakeem, a former Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole member who had been working with Lee on criminal justice reform, an issue dear to the governor, jabbed at Lee over what our lawmaker called "a 180-degree turn on that reform stance.
"We spent dollars, we spent time and effort on the promotion of criminal justice reform. Then he signs into law legislation that criminalizes protests to set a tone — to tell them, essentially, you need to be in your place."
Hardaway said a meeting with Lee is now in the works.
As for Lt. Gov. McNally's meme?
It showed a photo of a seated man in fatigues with a military-style weapon and smoking what appears to be a cigarette. It's accompanied by a caption that reads: "Warning to BLM & antifa: Once you've managed to defund & eliminate the police, there's nobody protecting you from us. Remember that."
The post was deleted, but not before it was publicized and widely distributed. Hardaway said Black lawmakers are calling on the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI to investigate the militia group, identified in the repost as "Painful Truths."
McNally told one caucus member he would "try to be more sensitive in the future."
But Hardaway said that's not enough: "He puts us all at risk. ... These nuts out there are looking for encouragement, they're looking for cover and that's what happens when those of us in power who are in government are carrying out the objects, schemes, strategies of the white supremacists and those extremist groups."
Hardaway is right, of course, and that brings us back to the idea that this has to be talked about.
Not memed. Not legislated at to make sideways efforts to stop peaceful protests or hinder access to voting or stop needed reforms. Talked about. Talked out. Mediated. Understood.
And if Lee and McNally don't understand that, we should find replacements for them.