Last week, a group of white nationalist organizations announced they would be holding "White Lives Matter" rallies in Middle Tennessee, including in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro. Among their reasons for selecting our region as a follow up to their violent gathering in Charlottesville was to protest the "ongoing problem of refugee resettlement."
We are alarmed and disturbed by how emboldened white supremacists have become in recent months, demonstrating with greater visibility and frequency at the same time their extreme rhetoric and policy visions have become increasingly mainstreamed.
But this isn't the first time the national anti-refugee movement has identified an opportunity to advance their extreme agenda in Middle Tennessee. As detailed in our 2015 report, Countering the Backlash, the national anti-refugee movement has long used Tennessee as a testing ground for some of the nation's most extreme policies. In fact, one of the country's first explicitly anti-refugee policies in recent times was introduced in the Tennessee legislature by Shelbyville Senator Jim Tracy in 2011, allowing local governments to pass (symbolic) moratoriums to stop resettlement in their communities. And as the "White Lives Matter" rallies call for a halt to refugee resettlement, the state legislature is suing the federal government in an effort to end resettlement in Tennessee.
While Tennessee has been at the forefront of the anti-refugee movement, we believe that our state has the opportunity to lead the country in turning the tide, defending refugee resettlement, and building truly welcoming communities where everyone belongs. For years we've worked to bring together immigrants, refugees, and U.S.-born Tennesseans to build more welcoming and connected communities. This work was the subject of a 2010 documentary, Welcome to Shelbyville, which the organizers of the "White Lives Matter" rally said put the city on their radar. Today, we continue to stand with residents of Shelbyville and Murfreesboro who are denouncing the rally and castinga new vision for our communities.
We know the calls to end refugee resettlement in Tennessee cannot be understood separately from the rising tide of Islamophobia, broader xenophobia and anxiety about demographic change, and the legacy and persistence of racism and anti-blackness in this country. We are committed to defeating white supremacy that shows up in the streets, in rhetoric, in policy, in institutions, and everywhere.
Stay tuned for ways you can take action to defend refugee resettlement, stand up to hate, and build more welcoming communities.
We All Belong Vigils: #NoMuslimBanEver #RefugeesWelcome
Wednesday, October 18th
During his first week in office, President Trump signed an executive order putting a moratorium on all refugee resettlement and banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Despite defeats in the courts and resistance in the streets, the president hasn’t given up on his extreme campaign promises. Last month, Trump announced he would lower the number of refugees to be resettled next year to 45,000 - the lowest number in the program’s history and he issued a third version of the Muslim Ban.
On October 18th, the day Muslim Ban 3.0 is set to go into effect, the ACLU of TN, the American Muslim Advisory Council, Bridge Refugee Services, and TIRRC are organizing vigils in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville to say #NoMuslimBanEver and #RefugeesWelcome. Join us!