May 4, 2021

Tim Scott

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“Speaking shortly after Biden [last Wednesday], Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., drew on his lived experiences to rebut Biden's agenda in a wide-ranging speech. Scott, who is one of only 11 Black lawmakers to have served in the Senate and the only Republican currently among them, repeated that he has ‘experienced the pain of discrimination,’ including his own troubling encounters with law enforcement. But he also declared that ‘America is not a racist country’ and warned that ‘it's wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.’” NPR

Watch Scott’s speech here. C-Span

Here’s our prior coverage of Biden’s first 100 days. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left criticizes Scott’s speech, arguing that he was rebutting a straw man and wrongly downplaying racism in the US.

The GOP, “whose members still can’t all admit that Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, has a message for Joe Biden: Stop being so radical and divisive. That was the gist of Senator Tim Scott’s rebuttal to the president’s first address to a joint session of Congress [last] Wednesday night…

As a thesis, it was fundamentally dishonest… a CNN survey after his address Wednesday found that nearly three-quarters of viewers believed the policies Biden proposed would move the country in the right direction; a CBS News poll came in with similar results, with 85% of respondents saying they approved of the speech and as many or more describing what they saw as ‘inspiring,’ ‘caring,’ and ‘presidential.’ The country may be bitterly polarized, but a majority approve of Biden and his policies—especially compared with his predecessor.”
Eric Lutz, Vanity Fair

“One of the main requirements for today's Black Republicans appears to be the tricky logic of downplaying racism while simultaneously playing the race card… [Scott] quickly went viral for his rebuttal to Biden, saying: ‘I get called 'Uncle Tom' and the N-word -- by 'progressives’’! Minutes later he added, ‘Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country.’…

“There are two big problems with that take. First, it's hard to imagine a country where people are calling you the N-word as not being racist. Second, as much as Scott's pronouncement of an un-racist America may have appealed to some Republican White voters, it wasn't an actual rebuttal to Biden's remarks. Biden never said America was a racist country. Scott created a strawman talking point for his party's base so he could tell them what they wanted to hear.”
Clay Cane, CNN

“That these words came from a Black Republican obviously added some heft to his argument… But it is nonetheless the case that Scott’s rhetoric was focused on a straw man

“Most Americans are in agreement about the existence of racism and racial discrimination at the individual level. We all know that there are people out there who view people of other races as inferior, and most of us disdain the people who hold those views. Instead, the debate centers on the extent to which systems within the country — business, government, law enforcement — reflect biases that disadvantage non-Whites. That’s not the same as the country itself being racist, a position that it seems safe to assume most Americans wouldn’t agree with — which is why it’s how Scott frames the Democratic position.”
Philip Bump, Washington Post

“In most cases, it is meaningless to debate whether any given person — let alone a whole country — ‘is’ or ‘is not’ racist. Aside from Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis, few advertise their racism with pride. Who can ever be absolutely certain about anyone else’s deepest, truest nature? How many of us have even done an honest inventory of our own unconscious biases?…

What we can do, however, is judge words and deeds. For example, I cannot say that all of the individuals who stormed the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection were racists. But I know that Black police officers trying to defend the citadel of our democracy were taunted with the vilest racist epithets. I know that the mob hung a noose, an enduring and noxious symbol of racist violence, on the Capitol grounds. And I know that the whole point was to stop Congress from certifying votes, many of which were cast by African Americans. On that basis, I conclude that racism played a major role in what President Biden called ‘the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.’”
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

From the Right

The right applauds Scott’s speech, arguing that he rightly pushed back against excessive claims of racism, and criticizes the racialized attacks on the senator.

The right applauds Scott’s speech, arguing that he rightly pushed back against excessive claims of racism, and criticizes the racialized attacks on the senator.

“The senator never alleged that racism was nonexistent in America. To do so would have been absurd. Scott has never claimed that no problems exist. It was Scott who wrote a police-reform bill last year that Democrats such as Kamala Harris, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin shut down using the filibuster, which they now call a ‘relic of Jim Crow.’…

“Indeed, Scott’s two claims about racism in America are wholly compatible. Bad actors and ugly ideas exist among people of all nations, and always will, and yet that does not necessarily mean the nation itself is fundamentally, legally, culturally or systemically racist. We can always do better, but by the world’s standards, the United States is likely the least racist nation.”
David Harsanyi, New York Post

“‘An honest conversation about race’ will inevitably include some assertions and contentions that offend and upset others, and many Americans have concluded that the absolute worst possible thing that could happen is that they encounter something that offends or upsets them. A lot of the time, when someone says, ‘It’s time for Americans to have an honest conversation about race,’ what they really mean is, ‘Shut up and listen.’…

“When Senator Tim Scott addresses the country and the instant reaction is that ‘Uncle Tim’ trends on Twitter, then no, we cannot have an honest conversation about race. We cannot have an honest conversation because a noisy contingent of Americans has decided [that] this particular black man’s perspective and experience are invalid and unworthy of consideration and that they — in many cases, white progressives! – feel completely comfortable telling him . . . well, to quote the president in another context, ‘you ain’t black.’…

“No doubt, white conservatives have their own flaws and they fail to live up to their ideals when it comes to the constitutionally guaranteed right to equality under the law. But please spare us the sanctimoniousness when our national conversation is overflowing with white progressives who feel entitled to declare who qualifies as black and who doesn’t.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“The trouble among people who seem to see racism everywhere is that Scott neither sees nor dwells in a Black-and-White world. Life for Scott hasn’t been easy. As he said Wednesday, he has experienced the insults to his dignity that other minorities recognize as part and parcel of life in America. He’s been followed in stores, he said, and pulled over for no reason while driving…

“Scott’s is the kind of story Americans have always admired — the overcoming of adversity to become what he could not have imagined as a child… Those who diminish Scott under the racist rubric that a Black man can’t be a conservative for his own good reasons diminish themselves — all of us, really. Worse, they impede the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s unifying goal that we judge a man not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character.”
Kathleen Parker, Washington Post

“Scott’s position in the US Senate carries historical resonance. He is a black man representing the state that fired the first shots of the Civil War, the state that produced slavery’s most prominent defenders and ideologues, the state that represented the very essence of the slave-holding South. That Tim Scott now represents South Carolina in the Senate is the living embodiment of our country’s racial progress. That is progress worth celebrating, even if you believe it is far from complete.”
Charles Lipson, Spectator USA

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