Civil Rights and Equality
Tennessee has a strong history of promoting civil rights and equality for all Americans. It is important to remember Nashville led the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. said he came to Nashville “not to bring inspiration, but to gain inspiration from the great movement that has taken place in this community.” Our beloved community was the training ground for the late Civil Rights hero and Congressman John Lewis.
Nashville can help the Civil Rights Movement again and help end systemic racism. The Black Lives Matter movement is just as important because it is the long-awaited, next stage of the Civil Rights Movement. This is one of those hinge moments in American history and the hinge is swinging in the right direction--toward more equality, more justice, and more fairness.
If you have the chance, be sure to visit the Civil Rights Collection at the Nashville Public Library. It’s a remarkable collection of Nashville’s history during the civil rights movement, and I hope you’ll also stop by my office while you’re here.
Ending Systemic Racism
I have fought to end systemic racism throughout my career and have a 100% rating from the Leadership Council on Civil Rights and the NAACP. I have voted for efforts to raise the minimum wage, invest more in housing and education systems, student debt relief, and eliminate gender pay gaps because we know nonwhite women are discriminated against the most when it comes to pay equity. I have cosponsored a bill that would create a commission to study and develop reparations proposals; this is the same proposal that Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden support.
Policing must be restructured and reformed. I cosponsored and voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which mandates national standards on police departments across the country and bans chokeholds, no-knock warrants, qualified immunity for police, and police officers committing murder in one district then getting a job in another district.
Criminal Justice Reform
I believe it is important to consider the human cost to mass incarceration, which has an impact not only on the life prospects of the offenders themselves, but also on their family members. Tennessee is tied with five other states for the third highest prevalence of parental incarceration, with one of 10 children in the state having lived with a parent or guardian incarcerated in jail or prison.
Because streamlining the voter restoration process is a commonsense way to increase Tennesseans’ ability to participate in their communities and a solution to help keep our state safe, I am involved with Saturday Clinics for voter restoration. Aided by volunteer attorneys working at the clinics, returning citizens have the opportunity to complete Certificate of Restoration forms. In addition, I have enlisted the support of the TN State Prison Commissioner to give inmates voter registration and restoration forms upon release from prison. I also work with Steering Clear, a joint program of the District Attorney and Sheriff’s office to offer voter registration forms and certificates of restoration when formerly incarcerated individuals apply for a driver’s license. I am trying to locate those who committed felonies between 1973 and 1981 to let them know that they never lost their right to vote. https://sos.tn.gov/products/elections/restoration-voting-rights.
Nashville is home to four amazing HBCUs - Fisk, American Baptist, Meharry, and TSU. I have supported funding for all of these institutions over the years. I have also supported and voted for permanent funding for HBCUs, expanded and increased Pell Grants, and student loan forgiveness to help increase access to educational opportunities. I also support restoring Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals and expanding access to free community college.
Tennessee used to be one of the best but now is one of the worst, most anti-voting states in America. This is intentional and is meant to suppress the vote, particularly of Black and Brown voters. I have been leading the fight in Tennessee against our Secretary of State for years to stop voter disenfranchisement and make it easier to vote.
I have offered a proposal to give Americans, for the first time in our history, a constitutional right to vote. Many people think we have this right already, but we do not. This proposed amendment bans voter suppression; any future restriction on voting would have to survive “strict scrutiny” by the judiciary. For more about this proposal, click here.
One of my top priorities has been getting universal health care. The Tennessee legislature has refused to expand Medicaid, and get health care to more than a quarter million Tennesseans. This is one of the easiest things we can do to get to universal health coverage in Tennessee. We shouldn’t have needed any reminders that health outcomes, life expectancy, infant mortality vary drastically across our Nashville community, but COVID-19 has highlighted those and I have been working to address these racial health disparities in our communities.
More on Civil Rights and Equality
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NASHVILLE – Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) was sworn-in to serve in the 117th United States Congress.
Shortly after being sworn-in, Cooper re-introduced the following three bills to ensure the voting process is fair and equitable for all Americans.
NASHVILLE – Yesterday Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) along with Tennessee’s two U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn, sent a letter to President Trump asking him to approve Governor Bill Lee’s disaster declaration for Tennessee.
WASHINGTON – Last night the U.S. House of Representatives passed an updated version of the HEROES Act to support Americans and the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic The $2.2 trillion legislation passed the House by 214-207. Not a single Republican voted for the relief package.
WASHINGTON – Of the three bills that Rep. Jim Cooper has been pushing to help the Nashville tourist economy recover, two are included in the $2.2 trillion relief package that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is offering the White House and the U.S. Senate.
WASHINGTON – Today the House passed an amendment introduced by Rep. Jim Cooper to the Strength in Diversity Act, which reinstates an Obama-era grant program that was cut by the Trump administration, to reduce racial and socioeconomic isolation in public schools. The amendment would give the nearly 30 school districts, including Metro Nashville Public Schools, that previously applied priority consideration under the newly created program.
WASHINGTON – Last night Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) joined many of his colleagues honoring the late Congressman John Lewis on the floor of the House of Representatives. In his spoken remarks, which were required to be shortened to one minute of floor time allotted to each Member, Cooper urged the public to support the HBCU institutions that trained Congressman Lewis. The following statement was submitted into the Congressional Record by Rep. Cooper:
WASHINGTON – Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) sent a letter to Committee Chair Sen. Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Sen. Amy Klobuchar today requesting answers to voter suppression tactics enforced by the Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office.
Cooper sent the letter in advance of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s scheduled appearance before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration today at 10:30AM ET/9:30AM CT.