The appointment of South Carolina Representative Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate makes him not only the first black senator from that state, but the only black person in the entire Senate. Which would be great if not for the unfortunate fact that he’s a Republican.
When Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina announced on Monday that she would name Representative Tim Scott to the Senate, it seemed like another milestone for African-Americans… He will be the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction; the first black Republican senator since 1979, when Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts retired; and, indeed, only the seventh African-American ever to serve in the chamber.
But this “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…
The trope of the black conservative has retained a man-bites-dog newsworthiness that is long past its shelf life. Clichés about fallen barriers are increasingly meaningless; symbols don’t make for coherent policies. Republicans will not gain significant black support unless they take policy positions that advance black interests. No number of Tim Scotts — or other cynical tokens — will change that.
It couldn’t be that Tim Scott genuinely has different ideas about the world than Adolph L. Reed Jr. It couldn’t be that he’s an individual. Everybody knows that if your skin is a certain color, you’re supposed to think a certain way. If you don’t, you’re a “cynical token.” And anybody who disagrees with this self-evident truth is a racist.
Mr. Reed gets to say this because he’s black, and everybody else on the left gets to agree with him just because. Remember when a predominantly white crowd criticizing a black politician was considered a bad thing?