Lately I’ve gotten into a Twitter debate with Jamil Smith and his followers because I took exception to him, Adolph Reed and Joy Reid warning Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) against becoming a “token” black after being nominated by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to fill the US Senate seat soon to be vacated by Senator Tim DeMint (R-SC). Both Rep. Scott and Governor Haley are non-whites who are so-called “Tea Party” favorites. I tweeted that calling Rep. Scott a token hostile to black concerns because he is a conservative and supports pro-gun rights legislation was belittling and unhelpful in the gun violence debate.
I pointed out that black history (i.e., lynching) informs me of the need to preserve gun rights. The historical record shows that armed black men fought off lynch mobs, while unarmed black men sprouted like “strange fruit from poplar trees.” Better a live token with a gun than a dead man with tokens covering each eye.
None of Scott’s critics would think to criticize the popular Malcolm X poster depicting him at his window holding a carbine. In fact, Malcolm was armed in self-defense to protect Betty and his three little girls from black men intent on taking his life. His life was later taken because he let his guard down.
And if Scott’s critics are truly worried about urban violence, they should focus on disarming the thugs terrorizing black neighborhoods. They should work with Senator-designate Scott on legislation combating gun trafficking.
One tweeter, @LadyPurdee wrote “Uncle Tim does NOT represent his people.” She went on to ask cryptically, “who DOES he represent?” In fact, Rep. Scott won election to Congress in 2010 by defeating the son of Strom Thurmond in a run-off primary and besting a white Democrat in the general election. Did I mention that Scott’s Charleston district is predominantly white?
Before ascending to Congress, Scott was a widely respected business leader, insurance broker, and legislator. He owns an insurance agency and once headed the Charleston Business Council. I made it my business to learn about Mr. Scott because my wife Kennedy hails from Anderson, SC and always touts the talents of her folks. From my research, I learned that she wasn’t wrong about her people. Mr. Scott has an impressive background and record of success (his conservative political record notwithstanding).
As much as African Americans distrust the Republican Party— for good reason given the GOP’s public policies and race-baiting by some candidates— all of the black Republicans elected to Congress have represented nonblack districts. To me that says something about those districts and fulfills the spirit of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 more so than the Democratic districts packed with blacks, Hispanics and other nonwhites.
Many black critics of black Republican congressmen never seem to question why so few black Democrats are ever elected to represent predominantly white congressional districts. Who are the racists? Who are the tokens? The person elected by whites and blacks together who’s then expected to represent their interests? Or the person elected by minorities alone who’s often expected to only work on their narrow interests exclusively?
I can tell you that within progressive and liberal circles, black Democrats who dare go beyond orthodoxy and narrow minority interests are often accused of working in the interest of others. Meanwhile, white Democrats are free to advocate any policy, take up any cause or vote against black interests. Double-standard, racism or whatever you choose to call it, I reject it.
I urge US Senator-designate Tim Scott to take his place in the US Senate as a black man representing the interests of South Carolinians: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, male and female, old and young. And that upon becoming a United States Senator, he should broaden his policy concerns, become less doctrinaire, and work across ideological partisan lines.
- Ruben Navarrette: Democrats show hypocrisy toward African Americans (sacbee.com)
- 13 people to watch in politics in 2013 (politico.com)
- Little Known Black History Fact: Tim Scott (blackamericaweb.com)