Op-Ed: Us or Else

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Downtown Nashville
Downtown Nashville

By The Nashville Voice Editorial Board

In 2015, Black America was in an uproar in yet another shooting of a black man at the hands of the police. Citizens from around the country went to Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, to be a part of a movement that many today know as Black Lives Matter (BLM). For critics of BLM, their usual point is that All Lives Matter, a cry out to neglect the social ills that happen to black bodies. When pushed on the fact that if All Lives Matter, why don’t Black Lives Matter to them, a response is usually heard, “…That if THEY would just follow the rules, there wouldn’t be a problem.” Wait! Let’s stay on that last statement: …If you follow the rules there wouldn’t be a problem. Let’s use that same statement to discuss a tale of a few downtown Nashville honky-tonks that believe they are above the law.

Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk, along with others, was recently hit with a beer license suspension. Steve Smith, the owner of the bar, knows the rules to obtain and keep a license because he has held one for 44 years. He prides himself on this fact. With that many years, he should know that if he just followed the rules, he would still have his license.

After the unanimous vote by the Metro Beer Permit Board, Kia Jarmon, one of the board members posted to her Facebook page that she wished the board had given an even harsher punishment to those businesses.

The public health department established law and order to business owners for the safety of the community. Instead of abiding by these rules, Mr. Smith’s establishment was punished for not following the emergency order when it put lives at danger during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included not having customers or staff wearing face coverings, not adhering to social distancing guidelines, not following the rules of keeping customers off the dance floor, allowing parties of more than six people, and no standing at the bar.

This was not hearsay as not only was their photos of proof, but an inspector came to observe the violations committed at this business. Instead of taking ownership of the violations his business committed, Mr. Smith blames peaceful protesters and a Black Woman who sits on the Nashville Beer Board as an escape and an excuse for him and his establishment’s wrongdoing.

There’s are a few things wrong with this argument. First, no one made Mr. Smith and his establishment violate the Public Safety’s Emergency Order. That was a decision he and his team participated wrongfully in. Second, if Mr. Smith and his establishment broke the rules, why wouldn’t they expect to pay the full price? If you do the crime, you should do the time. Third, what does peaceful protester have to do with you deciding as a business owner to ignore the agreement to protect the safety of your patrons?

The protesters are not business owners that agreed to the emergency orders so that they may reopen their doors to serve their customers. However, Mr. Smith and his establishment did agree to do exact that when they open their doors, yet they did not hold up their end of the bargain. This means protesters should not cause you to do wrong. If the peaceful protesters jumped off a bridge, would Mr. Smith jump as well? I would hope and believe that Mr. Smith has a mind of his own to make decisions for himself. Last, and the most important point for this Op-Ed, Mr. Smith and others added Kia Jarmon to a lawsuit because of a comment she made on her own Facebook page about how unlawful business owners like Mr. Smith expect light sentences for heavy rule breaking. To attack Ms. Jarmon after her comments, which she made after the Beer Boards decision, is an attack on her and on the Black Community she represents.

Ms. Jarmon is a well-respected member of the Black community and Greater Nashville Community. She is not the one that was put on trial for her actions. Mr. Smith was for violating the Emergency Orders of Public Health. Ms. Jarmon did not misstep or violate any of the Beer Board Rules with her comment. She only hurt Mr. Smith and his colleagues’ feelings by highlighting the wrongful act they committed and their response to the punishment their received.

It must be made clear that Ms. Jarmon does not stand alone. She is a part of a large community of Nashvillians that see the wrong Mr. Smith and other downtown businesses did and have no problem responding to the call of calling out the racism and white supremacy you are displaying through colorblind language.

This Op-Ed isn’t written nor approved by one person. It is a collection of many from the black community that know and understand the history of racist tactics Mr. Smith and his cronies commit through political lobbying and fundraising to silence a community’s voice while you profit from it. Consider your five-day suspension a slap on the wrist.

Consider this Op-Ed a warning shot. Ms. Jarmon is one with us. Next time, please think about the actions of wrongdoing you committed by breaking the law before blaming others for your actions.

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