Black United States Senators form a rare breed of politicians. In the whole history of America, there have only been eleven Black Senators. An even more rare breed of politician are Black women Senators. Carol Moseley Braun was the first Black woman to serve in the Senate after her election in 1992. Vice President Kamala Harris was the second Black woman to serve in the Senate. She was elected in 2016. Up until Kamala Harris resigned to assume the duties of Vice President, for the first time in history, there could have been a critical mass of four Black Senators serving simultaneously in the Senate: Democrat Kamala Harris of California, Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey, Democrat Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina. Then there were two: Cory Booker and Tim Scott. I focus on these two Senators due to the fact that they have been charged by their respective parties to lead the discussion on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. President Biden, in his first address to a Joint Session of Congress, challenged lawmakers to pass this law no later than May 25, 2021 which marks the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.
Neither political party can boost of having sent many Black Senators to Congress. The record is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. The first three Black Senators to serve in the Senate were all Republicans. The first two were from Mississippi. The third was from Massachusetts. Close to one hundred years separated their time in the Senate. Tim Scott was first appointed to the Senate in 2013. He was duly elected to the Senate in 2014. The Republican Party of the1870s is quite different from the Republican Party of the 1960s when Edward Brooke of Massachusetts served. Tim Scott’s Republican Party is even more different from Brooke’s Republican Party. Perhaps the same can be said of the Democrat Party if we date it from Reconstruction to now. The Democrat Party after Reconstruction was a racist, obstructionist Party hell bent on racial segregation, Black disenfranchisement, and “separate but equal is Constitutional.” On the other hand, the Democratic Party of today is the party of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden. It is understandable that Revels and Bruce were Republicans just like it is understandable that Booker and Warnock are Democrats today. It was more problematic for Edward Brooke to be a Republican. Today it is totally unacceptable for Tim Scott to be a Republican. The historical equivalent of Tim Scott being a Republican today would be if Cory Booker had been a Democrat in 1870.
Senator Scott was chosen by his party to give the rebuttal to Biden’s Joint Address to Congress. His premise to his remarks shut the rest of the discussion down. Senator Scott began his remarks by say that “America is not a racist nation.” This begs a profound question. I would have to ask Senator Scott to point to me the year, month, and day and time that America ceased to be a racist nation. By racist nation one means what is the prevailing narrative or dispensation that guides this nation. Less than a year after the Trump presidency, how can such an utterance emanate from a Black body? The Trump flag is synonymous with the Confederate flag. There is not demarcation between MAGA, the KKK, and other assortments of White Supremacist organizations. Perhaps Senator Scott did not get the memo. On January 6, 2021 White nationalist terrorists stormed the U.S. Capitol with the intent of keeping Donald Trump in power. A barrage of racial epithets was hurled at Black security guards sworn to protect the citadel of Democracy. A few Black insurrectionists were spotted in the crowd. To this very day I have not heard anyone explain what Black people were doing there that day. I had also seen Blacks at Trump rallies waving “BLACKS FOR TRUMP” signs. In politics, sometimes, one has to deal with the inexplicable. I have yet to hear of an exhaustive explanation for Black support for Trump and White insurrectionists. Whites of genuine goodwill have left the Republican Party. Why is Senator Scott still a Republican? During the sixties and seventies Blacks got wind of what Republicans were becoming and made a grand exodus from the Party. Colin Powell remained a Republican in name but has endorsed Democrats for the Presidency.
This is not the first time that Senator Scott has been “hand-picked” by the Republican Party to take the lead on a racially sensitive issue. He is not a rising star in the party as some ill-informed media outlets have stated. Senator Scott is entrenched in Republican Politics. He is Republican to the core. No wonder Twitter was trending with the name “Uncle Tim” during Scott’s rebuttal of Biden last Wednesday. A sizeable majority of Americans support Biden’s agenda. Why did White Republican leadership send Scott on a fool’s mission? This is the most sinister use of Black face.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) an is currently an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, and books: Oral Presidency and The American Political Narrative in addition to three collections of verse including Love Agnostic: The Eternal Protest.