Monday, October 2, 2023

Tim Scott speaks about race from a unique angle

Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott rarely specifically mentions the Iowa race. He doesn’t have to.

He is often the only black person at his state campaign events. The South Carolina senator presents himself as the product of mentors who taught him not to hold grudges from an early age.

When the subject of race comes up, he often says that the United States is not an inherently racist country.

“We don’t have black poverty or white poverty. We have poverty,” he told an all-white audience in Oskaloosa Thursday after being asked about race. He previously opened up about his poor upbringing in the South and his late grandfather, who was born in segregated South Carolina.

“The genius of this nation is that we keep moving forward, even though there are many forces that want us to believe the problem is that someone doesn’t look like you,” Scott said.

Scott, the only black Republican presidential candidate campaigning vigorously in this early-election state, is betting his upbeat message of personal responsibility wrapped in the Christian faith he conveniently quotes will resonate with Republicans in Iowa, who may choose not to endorse former President Donald Trump. So far, Scott and others are far behind Trump in the race for the White House, as the senator failed to make a breakthrough in the first Republican presidential debate.

Scott has been criticized by scholars who say his denial that there is systemic racism in the United States—particularly in light of the recent racist killings in Florida—downplays the larger social and political obstacles African Americans face.

But dozens of Iowa Republicans polled in recent months say her position, which is common among 2024 Republican presidential candidates, resonates with Scott more than others.

“It means there’s more to come from him,” said Mary Rozenboom, a 77-year-old retired hospital worker from Oskaloosa who is white. “He says, ‘That’s me. I am black. But I was successful because I worked hard, and those opportunities are still there in America.’”

Recent polls suggest support for Scott in the state is about a tenth of likely attendees at Iowa’s election convention, the first in the country, which is four months away.

That’s well behind Trump and slightly behind Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida. Still, he’s hinting that Scott’s position in Iowa is a bit stronger than it is nationally, where his support in recent polls is in the single digits or even below.

Scott may have unique racial advantages among Republican voters, political experts say, although his argument may not go down well with more diverse voters or in the general election.

Of those who voted for Republican candidates in the 2022 midterm election, only 18% said racism was a very serious problem in American society, according to AP VoteCast data, compared to 61% of those who voted for Democratic candidates.

“He’s a black man who rejects the idea of ​​systemic racism, which is very popular in Republican circles,” said Christine Matthews, a national political pollster who has worked for Republican candidates. “It has more resonance.”

But Yohuru Williams, founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at Saint Thomas University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, said Scott is deliberately trying to appeal to voters who want to believe racism is not a serious issue.

“He brushes it off and says he achieved all of these things because he took every opportunity and worked hard,” Williams said. “This creates a strong, if flawed, narrative that leftist politics of grudges alone are responsible for economic inequality, ongoing police brutality, and housing inequality.”

“But it gets him points with the Republican grassroots, who say, ‘Finally someone who sounds like me and is black, which shows I’m not racist,'” he added.

Scott argues that racism is one of the many forms of hatred that exist in America and that American society has improved over time.

This summer, he was asked to comment on ABC talk show host Joy Behar’s accusation that he didn’t understand systemic racism.

“I said the United States is not a racist country,” he said. “Because it isn’t.”

He achieved his political rise in South Carolina, the former cradle of the Confederacy. As in Iowa, the Republican primaries there are predominantly white.

When he won a seat in the House of Representatives in 2010, Scott became the first black Republican from South Carolina to be elected to Congress since the 1890s, at a time when post-Reconstruction white Democrats were removing many Republican officials and blacks through state-sponsored violence. including lynching.

Scott won the House primary by defeating Paul Thurmond, the son of longtime South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, a segregator who fought civil rights laws. Scott was then appointed to the United States Senate and re-elected twice for six-year terms.

“I think it’s important that in the story of eternity, I was fortunate to be born in the place where the civil war began, elected to the seat that Strom Thurmond once held, and able to do this.” This is a serious conversation about the racial consequences in this country,” he told The Associated Press in 2020.

Bonnie Boyle, who left an event in June, compared Scott to the late former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, two black figures popular with Republicans.

“I don’t think I’m prejudiced, but I know a lot of people are prejudiced, and I don’t think the color of your skin should matter,” said Boyle, who is white. “Tim Scott says that you can overcome the idea of ​​being stuck and achieve your goals, and I like that.”

Most Republican presidential candidates deny that America suffers from systemic racism. And the study of race in American society has encouraged grassroots Republican audiences. Several Republican-governed states have invoked critical race theory in legislation to restrict the teaching of race in public schools. Republican lawmakers in some states have also attempted to ban or cut funding for diversity and equity programs aimed at eliminating inequalities in racial representation.

Scott was a key spokesman for the party and was involved in congressional bills aimed at reducing police violence following the May 2020 killing of black man George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

The Senator rarely mentions such legislative work in Iowa. Among other things, the draft law would have provided for the establishment of a commission to investigate racial and police work. The Republicans and Democrats could not find a negotiated solution for a package and the legislative initiatives failed.

Already during this campaign, Scott faced special expectations when Florida issued new state education guidelines on slavery. DeSantis has repeatedly defended these standards, which require teachers to teach students that enslaved people learned skills that “could be used for their gain.”

“The reality of slavery was to destroy families, maim people, and even rape their wives. It was just devastating,” Scott told reporters in Iowa. “So I hope that everyone in our country—and certainly those who are running for president—would understand that.”

“Scott’s success is not because he ignores the legacy of slavery and racial segregation in the United States,” said Stephen Gilchrist, a black Republican who is president and CEO of the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce.

“He’s trying to live up to the credo of Dr. To do justice to Martin Luther King, that we should not be judged by the color of our skin but by the nature of our character,” added Gilchrist, who has yet to endorse a 2024 nominee. This has inspired many of you, we who are African American Republicans.”

But Frederick Gooding Jr., a professor of African American Studies at Texas Christian University, said many more African Americans worked just as hard as Scott but fought invisible barriers.

“He worked hard,” she added. “But it’s not that simple.”

Emily Swanson, director of public opinion research at the AP in Washington, and Associated Press contributors Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, and Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.

World Nation News Desk
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