This Republican senator just called out his party for its silence on blatant racism in its ranks
South Carolina's Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the upper chamber of Congress, called out his party's "silence" on racism Friday in a new op-ed for the Washington Post.
The op-ed came in response to comments from Rep. Steve King (R-IA) published the day before in the New York Times. The interview quotes King saying, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
"I will admit I am unsure who is offended by the term 'Western civilization' on its own," wrote Scott in response, "but anyone who needs 'white nationalist' or 'white supremacist' defined, described and defended does lack some pretty common knowledge."
Scott observed that white supremacist violence has been a pernicious and pervasive part of American history up to the present day.
When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole. They want to be treated with fairness for some perceived slights but refuse to return the favor to those on the other side.
Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said. Immigration is the perfect example, in which somehow our affection for the rule of law has become conflated with a perceived racism against brown and black people.
While King finally does seem to be facing some pushback among his usual allies, his racism has been clear for a long time, as AlterNet has previously documented. He has tried to defend himself from the blowback to the Times interview, saying that the outlet has intended to paint him as an "advocate for white nationalism and white supremacy" — but he didn't deny the accuracy of the quote. His previous statements and endorsements leave little room for doubt about his views.
Some in Congress are pushing to formally censure King for the comments, though it's not clear how many Republicans are on board.
In the op-ed, Scott didn't call out King's other racist beliefs. Neither did he denounce President Donald Trump for his consistent racist or the fundamental bigotry of his policies. Instead, he defended the focus on immigration, on shared by King, writing: "I do support border security not because I want to keep certain ethnicities out of our nation, but because I support enforcing our laws. "
This is an empty sentiment from a senator. As a lawmaker, of course he supports enforcing the laws. But lawmakers have the power to change the laws, so it is incumbent upon him to have an actual defense of the current law and their cruel consequences.
The piece also failed to grapple with the fundamental role racism plays in the ideology of the American conservative movement. It's not merely "silent" on racism in its ranks — the movement feeds off racism. Scott tried to write off King's comments as somehow aberrant, as something that could be fixed with a return to "civility." But there's a reason King and so many people like him feel comfortable in the Republican Party. They think it is the platform that will best support their bigoted vision for the country.