Tim Scott and the ‘Honest Conversation about Race’

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Senator Tim Scott with students at the Richard Wright Public Charter School in D.C. (Getty Images)

In response to The Ugly Reaction to Tim Scott’s Speech Is Telling

David,

I agree, and would note that one of the more frustrating cliches in American life is the contention that “it’s time for Americans to have an honest conversation about race” – a cliche that returns, again and again and again and again.

George Floyd, the entire Trump presidency, Ralph Northam, Ferguson, the entire Obama presidency, Donald Sterling, Michael Richards, Hurricane Katrina, O.J. Simpson, the L.A. riots, Rodney King, Jimmy the Greek, Al Capanis, the Central Park Five, Bernie Goetz… There has been no shortage of loud, often heated, often cacophonous conversations about race in America. Maybe, as some people seem to believe, they’re not really “honest conversations.” But it’s hard to believe they’ve been entirely dishonest conversations.

“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” becomes trending 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 this this particular black man’s perspective and experience is 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 failures 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.

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