Let’s pause to appreciate something Vice President Kamala Harris said this morning. And then, perhaps those who piled on Senator Tim Scott for saying the same thing could allow themselves to understand his point.
“No, I don’t think America is a racist country,” Harris said on ABC’s Good Morning America, on the heels of President Biden’s address to Congress and the South Carolina Republican’s response that’s got everyone so worked up.
Ah, but there was a but. Okay, here’s the rest of Harris’s commentary on the matter: “But we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.”
Yet that’s what Scott also attempted to do in his response last night, with his personal accounts of being “pulled over for no reason,” of being “followed” while shopping, of knowing the “pain of discrimination.” He went on to dispute the notion that we haven’t made progress, now-famously declaring that “America is not a racist country.”
The concept both he and the vice president are speaking to draws a basic distinction: acts of racism can run through a country’s history and still demand attention – and condemnation – today, without the country itself being fundamentally racist in character.
That’s one opinion, arrived at earnestly, and it shouldn’t be mercilessly mocked. But because Senator Tim Scott said it first, he was treated like a rube, a wretch, and, if the “Uncle Tim” phrase trending overnight on Twitter is any gauge, a race traitor.
A sampling of the reaction:
Tim Scott: “America is not a racist country”
Also Tim Scott: They used to teach racism in schools.
Also T.S., but 10 mins later: I get followed around in stores.
Same Tim: School choice will fix unequal education!
Timmy: Also, my granddaddy can’t read…
Still no racism, tho
— Michael Harriot (@michaelharriot) April 29, 2021
“America is not a racist country,” says Tim Scott, one of only three Black Republicans in the entire United States Congress.
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) April 29, 2021
Tim Scott says “America is not a racist country.” Not sure how this man lives with himself.
— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) April 29, 2021
Sen. Tim Scott: America is not a racist country.
Also Sen. Tim Scott: “I have experienced racial profiling from officers…I have been stopped around 18 times, and as a lawmaker, I was stopped 7 times in one year.”
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) April 29, 2021
This was the consensus in some corners of cable news last night, as my colleague David Harsanyi chronicled.
It’s unlikely Kamala Harris will face the same derision, nor should she.