December 9, 2010
Once again race has reared its ugly head with a Republican elected official. But, this time in a more subtle way.
Incoming Republican congressman, Tim Scott has decided not to join the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in January. While I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, I am viscerally embarrassed by his rationale for not joining.
Scott is the first Black Republican elected to the House from South Carolina since Reconstruction. His district is over 80% white and overwhelmingly Republican. Since every congressman claims to represent the people in his district, one can make the argument that his decision reflects the sentiments of his constituents!
According to Scott’s emailed statement on his decision, “…I will not be joining [CBC]at this time…My campaign was never about race… My campaign has been about themes that unite all Americans restoring the American dream by reducing the tax burden, decreasing government interference in the private sector, and restoring fiscal responsibility, and I don¹t think those ideals are advanced by focusing on one group of people.
I believe that by promoting our conservative values we will grow the economy, which will make everything else possible. The black community, like all communities, will benefit when businesses can use their profits to hire more workers instead of paying higher taxes; when companies decide to locate in America instead of overseas; and when our government no longer saddles our children¹s futures with ever-increasing debt.”
Let’s dissect Mr. Scott’s own words. He indicates that his campaign was never about race. Oh really? Here is an excerpt that his congressional campaign sent to the media calling him a “pioneer.” “Tim Scott is commonly called a “pioneer” because he was the first and only black Republican elected to the South Carolina House since Reconstruction, and
before that, back in 1995, he was the first black elected to a county-wide office in
Charleston, SC (http://www.votetimscott.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Media-Kit-pioneer.pdf). But, he said his campaign was not about race!
Well, Mr. Scott, you can’t have it both ways. You were not elected to the U.S. House because you were Black, but your race is part of your narrative. You should be proud of that narrative. You did not ask people to vote for you because you were Black, but they did vote for you with the knowledge that you were Black. This is the essence of the American dream.
It’s not a zero sum game. You can be Black, Republican, and conservative simultaneously. They are not mutually exclusive. All too frequently, Black Republicans spend too much time ignoring their Blackness, thinking this is going to ingratiate them more with whites. Well it won’t! It’s a false choice.
Mr. Scott is obviously a proponent of a “color blind” society. I would be curious to find out if he had any Blacks on his paid campaign staff in any of the “power positions?” Those positions are: campaign manager, finance manager, press secretary, or campaign chairman? I would also be curious to find out if Mr. Scott will have any Blacks in power positions on his congressional staff? Those positions include: chief of staff, legislative director, press secretary, or state director.
I would be surprised, no totally shocked if the answer to the above questions were yes. I hope, no, I pray that I will be proven wrong. It’s not so much that Black Republicans are color blind, but rather they are blind to people of color, especially their own. This is a major reason Blacks refuse to vote or associate with the Republican Party; though on many issues Blacks are in sync with the party.
So, Mr. Scott, you don’t have to be about race, neither do you have to be blind to your race.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (www.excellstyle.com) & U.S. Africa Magazine (www.usafricaonline.com).