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Details about Justin Pearson, one of the “Tennessee Three” who was expelled from the state legislature after helping lead an insurrection, are calling into question the authenticity of his current persona. That persona includes a lot of cosplaying as Martin Luther King, Jr. and using what some are describing as a “Southern preacher” speaking style.
Here’s a video of Pearson’s insurrectionist behavior for context.
Reps. @brotherjones_ and Pearson have a bullhorn on the House Floor yelling “no action, no peace”
House immediately recessed.
Sargents at arms have approached.
Party leaders look like they’re conferring to figure out what to do. pic.twitter.com/bawhoNjcb0
— Vivian Jones (@Vivian_E_Jones) March 30, 2023
After his expulsion, Pearson gave a series of speeches and public appearances that had the far left weak in the knees. They truly thought they were seeing an organic replay of the civil rights era and were witnesses to “history.”
This speech by the wrongfully-expelled Rep. Justin Pearson will go down in history as one of the greatest. I’m FIRED UP!pic.twitter.com/ZP9Foeb76U
— Dash Dobrofsky (@DashDobrofsky) April 7, 2023
But before he decided to reframe himself as a revolutionary, Pearson was a relatively well-off, soft-spoken aspiring politician. What changed? We’ll get to that in a moment, but here’s a video of the expelled legislator from 2016.
Justin Pearson was a normal, middle class clean cut black college student in 2016 when he ran for BSG president. He spoke about bringing together liberals and conservatives, to meet in the “radical middle” and waxed lyrical about the importance of “hearing every voice”. https://t.co/faED0Oi8WF pic.twitter.com/hfN6zaAmyA
— Aimee Terese (@aimeeterese) April 11, 2023
In Democrat circles, this is normally called “code-switching.” It’s akin to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Kamala Harris donning Southern accents when they find themselves below the Mason-Dixon line. It’s the idea that you change how you act and sound in order to play to the audience currently in front of you.
Pearson now uses a sing-songy speaking style inspired by MLK and Malcolm X, but unlike those two historical figures, he clearly spent a lot of time in front of a mirror practicing, and he did so fairly recently. His LinkedIn profile offers more evidence of a sudden transformation, showing someone who wasn’t all that radical not long ago. Prior to adopting his current act, he was sponsored by Coca-Cola, worked for NGOs, interned with the US Congress, and otherwise lived what most would say is a privileged life (including a stint at Princeton).
So returning to the original question, what changed? The simple answer is that the Democratic Party changed, therefore changing the incentives for its political figures. Sometime during the Trump administration, especially around the time of the George Floyd riots, it became politically expedient to reinvent one’s self as a long-oppressed, victimized revolutionary and to pretend that the country was under a dark cloud of systemic racial bigotry. It’s not a coincidence that Pearson’s rebirth happened during that era. He went from Brooks Brothers to Malcolm X just in time to advance his career.
Personally, I find this all profoundly harmful to the nation. When you incentivize radicalism and faux victimhood, you end up with more of both, and neither does anything but bring destruction. Ask yourself, what exactly has gotten better since Democrats have convinced huge swaths of the country that they are being systemically oppressed? Shouldn’t there be some expectation that a political posture brings actual progress? Instead, all it’s brought is more and more turmoil as the social fabric is torn apart piece by piece so cynical politicians can get their names in the headlines.
This was all so predictable as well. Many warned during the Barack Obama era (back when a majority of black Americans rejected the systemic racism narrative) that the increasing racialization of every issue would only bring about disunity and further pain for the benefit of a select few. And here we are, with people like Pearson performing for the cameras while normal people sink further into their suffering. It shouldn’t be that way.
The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of ThinkCivics.com
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