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South Carolina Senator Tim Scott just gave his first public speech as a 2024 Presidential Candidate. The sound bite that everyone will run with is, “America is not Racist”. It’s not the first time he has made this declaration.
During Scott’s 2021 GOP Rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union Address, he proclaimed to a majority White Republican Party in his widely televised event, “Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country.” His declaration stirred a profound sense of disgust within me. Upon delivering such a weighty soundbite that deserves continuous extensive unpacking, his actions felt like a betrayal to the cause of racial justice.
In today’s speech, Senator Tim Scott suggested that Black people should recognize the genius of America’s founding fathers as if their immorality of thievery and rape is to be ignored.
I sat cringing on my sofa in front of the television, gasping at Scott’s audacity. A Black man from the South had ignored the impact of America’s long history of creating anti-Black policies that have adversely impacted people who look like him. Now, he’s the Black GOP candidate who is seemingly willing to say anything to become President, even to Black people’s detriment.
While he has gained support from many in the Republican Party and some individuals within the Black community — Candace Owens and his Congressional colleague in the U.S. House, Byron Donalds of Florida, who also believe “America is not racist,” most Black Americans would classify him as an Uncle Tom, like the submissive and obedient enslaved character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, who was loyal to his White master.
Being labeled an Uncle Tom is considered derogatory and is typically used to criticize individuals who are perceived as going against the interests or progress of the black community, often by supporting policies or taking actions that are seen as detrimental to racial equality. And Tim Scott is guilty of this crime against the race.
We have seen it — verbal brutality that stigmatizes and physically endangers our community from GOP elected officials, violent acts Tim Scott repeatedly chooses to ignore by not holding his White Republican colleagues accountable when they choose to be racist. I would even go as far as to say that proclaiming that “America is not Racist” is an act of violence toward Black people. And I know that I’m not reaching because it was Dr. Martin Luther King who said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Racism in America is real and the destruction of my community in 1921 is the evidence and so is the death of Terence Crutcher, George Floyd, Jordan Neely, and countless of others.
Scott’s behavior has been consistent — pandering to the White Republican base to get elected. There is no better evidence than when he single-handedly killed the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, fearing that such a vote would be disloyal to his base.
So the thought of Tim Scott being an official candidate is terrifying because two things will happen. Black people know that he’ll be used as a political token to shield White Republicans’ harmful, coded racist rhetoric during the primaries and general election.
Black people also know that Tim Scott will not fight for them because, like President Barack Obama had to be the president of all Americans, Tim Scott knows that he’ll have to do the same. However, the only difference between Obama and Scott is that Obama championed policies that cast a wide enough net that profoundly improved the lives of Black Americans (e.g., the Affordable Care Act) and Scott continues to be the thorn preventing racial progress because he chooses to support legislation that neither benefits Black people and or is downright harmful to Black and other marginalized communities.
“I’m living proof that America is the land of opportunity and not the land of oppression,” Tim Scott’s message of hope and that “America is not Racist” fails to acknowledge the ongoing issues of over-policing and economic barriers faced by Black communities. The harsh reality remains that the majority of Black individuals are not experiencing the same upward mobility as their White counterparts. Critical Race Theory provides a logical framework to understand the systemic factors that hinder progress for Black individuals, despite their equal efforts and hard work.
Despite the extensive research that has gone into the legal framework for decades by Black scholars, Scott uses it as a simple political buzzword to collect White votes while ignoring the reality that the majority of Black Americans are calling out the continued harm of systemically racist systems.