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A white Tennessee lawmaker survived expulsion while 2 young Black lawmakers lost their seats for protesting gun violence. She says the result ‘might have to do with the color of our skin.’

Former Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and former Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis,  join hands and hold them aloft amid a crowed of people. Pearson (right) and Jones (left) were expelled after protesting on the Tennessee house floor.Former Rep. Justin Jones, Rep. Gloria Johnson, and former Rep. Justin Pearson, joined and raised their hands outside the House chamber in Tennessee. Jones and Pearson were expelled from the legislature on Thursday.

AP Photo/George Walker IV

  • A white lawmaker in Tennessee survived a vote to expel her but two Black lawmakers lost their seats.
  • The vote to expel Rep. Gloria Johnson failed 65-30, missing the two-thirds majority required.
  • She said after the vote that the different outcomes “might have to do with the color of our skin.”

A white lawmaker in Tennessee said racism may have had a part to play in her surviving a vote to expel her from the state House, while two young Black lawmakers lost their seats. 

The three Democratic lawmakers had joined protesters demanding stricter gun regulations after the mass shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School. Six people, including three 9-year-old children, were killed during the school shooting. All three lawmakers faced expulsion votes for breaking House rules by walking onto the floor and speaking without first being recognized. 

But the motion to expel Rep. Gloria Johnson failed 65-30, falling short of the two-thirds majority required to remove her. Meanwhile, two Black lawmakers — Rep. Justin Pearson and Rep. Justin Jones — were expelled with 69-26 and 72-25 votes respectively. 

Johnson was asked during a media scrum after the House votes on her and Jones’ expulsion why their votes had different outcomes, despite the fact they protested the same way.

—philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 6, 2023


“I’ll answer your question: it might have to do with the color of our skin,” Johnson said. 

Johnson, Pearson, and Jones have been known to protesters in Tennessee as the “Tennessee Three,” per NBC News.

Pearson acknowledged the racial undertones that might have resulted in him and Jones losing their seats.

“You cannot ignore the racial dynamic of what happened today,” Pearson told MSNBC. “Two young Black lawmakers get expelled and the one white woman does not? That’s a statement in and of itself.” 

—Acyn (@Acyn) April 7, 2023


Johnson, who is 60, stood up for Pearson and Jones before her own expulsion vote. 

“We have to welcome this younger generation, who might do it a little bit differently, but they are fighting for their constituency,” Johnson said before the vote, per CBS News.

Johnson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment sent outside regular business hours. 

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