Reparations, Rev. Earle Fisher, Tennessee Pastor

As Tennessee Tries To Outlaw Reparations, One Pastor Is Fighting Back

Fisher recommends that community organizing in Tennessee could help elect political leaders who will be less beholden to agree with the tenets of white nationalism and white supremacy.

The Tennessee Senate is attempting to ban the study of reparations in its counties. SB0429, sponsored by Republican Sen. Brent Taylor, is being positioned by Taylor as part of his belief that reparations is a national issue and not a state issue.

One Tennessee pastor is pushing back against the bill. As WKRN reports, Rev. Earle Fisher, the senior pastor at Memphis’ Abyssinian Baptist Church, has started a petition against the bill and claims that the bill is about maintaining political power.

“This is not about money. This is about ideology. This is about political power,” Fisher told the outlet. “This is about people who are hell-bent on maintaining racial and economic inequities across the state, and they are scared to death that the truth would come out.  So, they don’t want anybody to study it.”

Fisher also told Capital B News, “It’s a white nationalist [legislature] with a supermajority, and it’s not lost on me or anybody who has been doing political organizing over the last several years that this is indeed who they are. When you are passing legislation to stop people from studying something, as a legislative body, it communicates that not only are you committed to injustice and inequity, but you are anti-truth.”

Taylor explained his reasoning for sponsoring the bill. “I will make very clear our vote today does not pass judgment on reparations,” he told WKRN. “That is a very significant and very important issue for many people in our country, but it is an issue that belongs to the federal government and does not belong to our cities and counties, and I think it’s inappropriate for our cities and counties tax dollars to go to such an issue.”

Rep. Justin J. Pearson, a Democrat, told Capital B that Tennessee’s fight against reparations is part of the state’s troubling history.

“This is the legislating of white supremacy and racism that we deal with here,” Pearson said, adding that the bill is a “terrible” yet “accurate” reflection of the state he represents. “The push by the Republican Party in our state against reparations is really an effort to live in an ahistorical way—to not understand the past and its ramifications for the present day.”

Fisher, meanwhile, recommends that community organizing in Tennessee could help elect political leaders who will be less beholden to agree with white nationalism and white supremacy. 

“Sometimes you fight in Congress, and if you can’t win in Congress, you got to fight in court. But in order to do any of that effectively, you got to organize in the community,” Fisher told Capital B. “At the end of the day, we have to look at some of these elected officials who are proposing these things—look at some of these races where some of the white nationalist congressmen could potentially be ousted and try to focus on that.”

SB0429 is scheduled to go before the Tennessee House of Representatives for a vote on April 10. At the time of writing, Fisher’s petition has garnered 1,288 signatures on