Column: Tim Scott, the only Black GOP senator, now loves Trump. It’s not a good look
The first Black Republican to serve in the U.S. Senate was a preacher by the name of Hiram Revels. He was born free, to free parents, in 1827. Mississippi state legislators sent Revels to Washington in 1870 to fill one of two vacancies. When the state seceded in 1861, both its senators went with it. One was Jefferson Davis.
Revels, after serving in the Civil War, was first a community activist before becoming a politician. Given Davis’ role during the war as president of the Confederacy, for Mississippi to send Revels to the Senate was a powerful rebuke of the racism that led this country to the brink of destruction.
And do you know what Revels found when he got to Washington?
The same racism that led this country to the brink of destruction.
Some Democrats objected to his appointment, claiming Revels’ past elections weren’t valid. Others claimed Revels wasn’t a U.S. citizen.
Anyway, Revels and the Republicans of his day overcame that ugliness and made history. And while he served only one year, he used that time to advocate for Black voting rights in the South and fought against segregation in the North. When it became illegal for free Black men to live in Missouri, do you know where he moved? Missouri — putting his life at risk to be a beacon of hope for those who believed in the promise of America.
Today, there’s also one Black Republican in the U.S. Senate, and this week he said he loves Donald Trump — a man who became the face of the birther movement that shadowed the nation’s first Black president. The only Black Republican in the Senate wants you to believe Trump will unite the country. At the same time Trump is referring to Nikki Haley — a child of immigrants from India whose first name is Nimarata — as “Nimbra.”
The first Black Republican in the U.S. Senate challenged racism. Today the only Black Republican in the Senate wants you to believe racism is a thing of the past. As if his own biography — being the first Black Republican elected to the Senate since Reconstruction — isn’t a sign of how racism endures.
In his endorsement of Trump, Scott suggested the former president understood “the American people are sick and tired of being sick and tired.” The American people never signaled that Trump was their man. He never reached even 50% in job approval. He didn’t even win the popular vote. The only Black Republican in the Senate borrowed a phrase uttered by the iconic civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, another Mississippian, who said in 1964: “All my life I’ve been sick and tired. Now I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
She was rallying support for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, a corrective needed because the state that gave us Sen. Revels had backslid to acting like the state that gave the Confederacy President Davis. By 1965 Black people were barred from participating in meetings of Mississippi’s Democratic Party. In the face of that segregation, Black residents formed their own Democratic Party.
And now the only Black Republican in the Senate in 2024 endorsed a man who speaks glowingly of the “good old days” at rallies. A man who wants to be dictator for a day and make America great again without clarification of just exactly when he thinks America was at her best.
Perhaps Scott is doing all of this in hopes of being Trump’s running mate — as if that worked out well for Mike Pence. Maybe a Cabinet position or ambassador appointment. Or maybe Scott just wants approval from his party, even though it now supports a man who attempted to overthrow the 2020 election by suing districts that are home to a lot of people of color.
Regardless of Scott’s reasoning, one thing is clear: The only Black Republican in the Senate today is nothing like the first. Revels held space and used his time in office to push toward an equitable future. And Scott … well, he loves Trump.