Advance Notice: Briefs

Black female senators call out Legislature for allowing racism

By: - May 6, 2020 2:42 pm

Sen. Erika Geiss | Nick Manes

Two Black female state senators on Wednesday blasted armed, right-wing protests at the Capitol and state Sen. Dale Zorn (R-Ida) for wearing a confederate flag mask to the Senate in April.

State Sens. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) and Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) have proposed a resolution that would ban Confederate flag imagery from the state Capitol and called for Zorn to be censured. 

Dale Zorn

Zorn maintained after wearing the mask that it wasn’t a Confederate flag, but even if it was that “it’s a part of our history.” He later apologized. So far, the GOP-led Senate has taken no action.

On Wednesday, Geiss said Zorn’s actions have “cast a stain” upon the Senate and the lack of action against him speaks volumes about what the body will tolerate.

“The Confederate flag is a symbol of immense hatred, which seeks to celebrate the most disgraceful aspects of our indigenous history. Proudly wearing one is a direct affront to the one in seven Michiganders who are of African descent. A symbol of white supremacy has no place in a legislative body that is constitutionally obligated to make laws that provide for the equal protection of people of all races,” she said.

Geiss went on to say that donning the Confederate battle flag disgraces the Michiganders that fought as a Union state in the Civil War to end slavery and all who have sacrificed for civil rights in the century and a half since.

Santana called upon her fellow senators to reflect on civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and Rosa Parks, who were unarmed and didn’t need to wave symbols of hate to convey their message.

Sylvia Santana

She referenced the Thursday session where protestors entered the Capitol, screaming outside the House to be let in and hurling insults at the officers guarding the entrance. Inside the Senate gallery, several armed protestors yelled down as Senators met.

Santana said she sat in that session, praying to God that the same people who protested outside with hate speech, swastikas and Confederate flags would not open fire.

“There is no place for symbols of hate in the Capitol grounds during protests, especially in an angry mob of people yelling and disrespecting our law enforcement,” Santana said. “This is truly a troubling era in our history and it pains me and it often strengthens me because I am an American. I am a Black woman. And I’m in a position to speak truth to power.”

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Anna Liz Nichols
Anna Liz Nichols

Anna Liz Nichols covers government and statewide issues, including criminal justice, environmental issues, education and domestic and sexual violence. Anna is a former state government reporter for The Associated Press and most recently was a reporter for the Detroit News. Anna is a graduate of Michigan State University.