Tennessee Lawmaker Defends Call for "N.A.A.W.P."

Mar 2, 2015

In a two-minute speech to the Tennessee General Assembly last week, Shelia Butt, a state Rep. from Colombia, said she was not racist.

She hoped to clarify that her now-deleted Facebook post calling for a N.A.A.W.P. was not intentionally offensive, as the "W" did not stand for White, but "Western." She maintains that African-Americans and Muslims have organizations that lobby on their behalf. But "Western" people -- especially Western Christian people -- have no lobbyists advancing their causes.

While current statistics do not reflect the percentage of Westerners, Easterners, Northerners or Southerners in the statehouse, other demographics have been made public.

Of the 132 elected representatives and senators in the 109th General Assembly, 83% are male, 87% are white and nearly all are Christian (1/3 of the assembly is Baptist). 77% of Tennessee lawmakers are Republican.

The perceived lack of "Western" lobbyists and Christian citizens in Tennessee lending voice to Christian causes concerns Butt at a time when lawmakers are trying to make the Bible the official state book of Tennessee, to outlaw "No Go Zones" -- lawless, nonexistent areas in the state controlled by Muslim extremists --  and to propose new ways of seizing money and property from Muslims by suspecting them to be terrorists.

In this week's Capitol Hill Conversation, Nashville Public Radio's Chas Sisk and Emil Moffatt discuss Butt's comments.