The new Black Republican senator from South Carolina is already being called a “token.” That’s wrong.
Earlier this week, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Black Republican Congressman Tim Scott to replace junior Sen. Jim DeMint in the upcoming Congress. DeMint is stepping down to head up a conservative think tank, thus making Scott our only Black senator and the first Southern Black senator since Reconstruction. Regardless of your political beliefs, that's pretty great news — but some people aren't treating it that way.
In a piece for the New York Times, political science professor Adolph Reed Jr. wrote, "[T]his 'first black' rhetoric tends to interpret African-American political successes — including that of President Obama — as part of a morality play that dramatizes 'how far we have come.' It obscures the fact that modern black Republicans have been more tokens than signs of progress."
Reed went on to assert that just "as white Southern Democrats once used cynical manipulations — poll taxes, grandfather clauses, literacy tests — to get around the 15th Amendment, so modern-day Republicans have deployed blacks to undermine black interests."
I'm not generally in the business of agreeing with Fox News, but I have to side with Fox's Greg Gutfeld on this one when he decried Reed's words as being out of line. Say what you will about Republican politics, which have indeed hurt many African-Americans over the years, but suggesting that Scott and other Black Republicans have somehow been "deployed" completely ignores the fact that those people have agency over their lives and the right to live however they'd like.
Tim Scott is a congressman turned senator. While that doesn't necessarily make him a genius or infallible, it does mean he's probably not a stupid automaton simply out to do the bidding of the conservative machine, and to suggest as much is as offensive as when white people suggest that the only reason Blacks voted for President Obama is out of racial solidarity.
I am far from a conservative, and I'll agree that many Republican policies are worse for the Black community than Democratic policies. But here's the wonderful thing about being a human being in America: You're allowed to believe whatever you'd like and vote for whatever political party you'd like, and you are no more required to be a Democrat because you're Black than you are required to be a Republican because you're rich and white.
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