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Maya Rupert: In Defense of Black Republicans

by Maya Rupert

The announcement that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will appoint Tim Scott, a black Republican, to complete the remainder of Jim DeMint’s term as a Senator, has generated a disturbing reaction.

Despite the fact that Scott will become the only sitting black Senator (since we elected the other one president), there has been a significant amount of commentary on whether Scott’s conservative views undermine his blackness and render him a “sell out” or an “Oreo.” To be clear, these accusations should not be confused with the perfectly legitimate question of whether appointing a black man that most black people disagree with will help the Republican Party shed its racially uninclusive image. Instead, these attacks question Scott’s authenticity as a black man.

This isn’t new. High profile black Republicans have often been confronted with such attacks. FromCondoleezza Rice to Clarence Thomas, black conservatives often find themselves being race-checked for splitting with the majority of the black community on their political leanings.

It may be a common narrative, but it’s incredibly unfair. Moreover, it’s dangerous. And not just for black conservatives, but for the liberals who are typically making the claims as well.

Essentially, this argument boils down to an insistence that after having faced racism and systemic racial bias in this country, black people are only allowed to have a certain type of reaction to the oppression we have faced. It implies that it is possible to be black the “wrong way.” Attacking black Republicans then, becomes one more way to rob an already marginalized group of entitlement to interpret their own experience.

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