When George W. Bush was running for president in 2000, he spoke to the NAACP’s 91st annual convention where he coined the phrase “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
By that he meant the attitude held by some that if one is Black, it automatically means they should not be expected to achieve much in life because so many start off in circumstances that are difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.
Senator and Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott channeled Bush’s statement when he was a recent guest on “The View,” a highly partisan TV program that seems to hate all things Republican. Scott decided to go on the ABC show after host Joy Behar claimed Scott “doesn’t get racism.”
Scott indeed “gets” racism. As his friend, former Congressman Trey Gowdy has said, Scott has been stopped numerous times while driving simply because he is Black. Gowdy has also said guards at the U.S. Senate have delayed Scott from entering the building and asked for identification even while he was wearing his Senate pin.
In his appearance on “The View” (Behar was conveniently “off” that day so he couldn’t confront his primary accuser), Scott said in response to claims by Behar and others that he and other successful Black Republicans are “exceptions not the rule” that it’s “a dangerous, offensive, disgusting message to send to our young people today.”
Indeed it is, and it’s also a far more subtle and less observable form of racism. If a Black child is told, overtly or covertly, he or she cannot succeed in life, many will internalize that message. Some will use it as an excuse to engage in crime, including the looting of stores and even shootings as we constantly witness in some of our major cities. Others will simply give up, or drop out of school, dooming far too many to a life of failure and antisocial behavior.
Scott tried to present evidence that despite racism, which he acknowledges exists, there are growing numbers of Black people who are succeeding and ought to be seen not as exceptions, but examples for others to follow:
“The fact of the matter is we’ve had an African American president, African American vice president, we’ve had two African Americans to be secretaries of state. In my home city, the police chief is an African American who’s now running for mayor.”
Facts don’t matter to the left because a change in attitude would require a change in policies that are clearly not working to the benefit of too many Black people. Freeing Black children from poorly performing schools would be a meaningful first step, something Scott has long advocated and the left opposes, even while many, including elected officials, sent their kids to private schools.
This latest dust-up between the left and Scott reminds me of a visit I made with Rev. Jesse Jackson to an all-Black middle school in the mid 1980s. Jackson told the young people not to have babies until they are married, stay off drugs and study hard. Any conservative could have given that speech. I recall urging him to speak less of politics and more about what he told those students. Alas, he did not follow my advice, but his challenge to those students was one more of them needed to hear.
“We Shall Overcome” was a powerful song when Black Americans were trying to overcome the racism of their day. A new one might be called “We Have Overcome,” sung to inspire people who did what Jackson advised and who should urge others to follow the example of the successful.