Last month Tony Sewell, black chairman of a commission which challenged the view that the United Kingdom (UK) was a racist country, was vilified as an Uncle Tom by intolerant “liberals”. However, as this column reported, he hit right back at his critics.
More recently, a black American senator has been attacked as an Uncle Tom for challenging Joe Biden’s claims that the United States (US) is guilty of “systemic racism”. The senator also hit back, forcing President Biden to qualify some of his allegations.
Both sets of circumstances testify to the fury black people provoke among supposedly “liberal” people when they deviate from the notion that the UK and the US are fundamentally racist societies. Whites who challenge this notion are merely denialists, but critics who happen to be black are vilified as traitors.
President Biden sees “systemic racism” everywhere. Addressing a joint session of Congress on 28th April, he said it plagued America in the criminal justice system and in other ways, where he promised to “deliver real equity – good jobs, good schools, affordable housing, clean air, clean water, being able to generate wealth and pass it down…”
The following day, however, he was challenged by Tim Scott, junior Republican senator from South Carolina. Not only was the US not racist, but President Biden and his party were “pulling us further and further apart”.
“I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it is like to be pulled over for no reason. To be followed around a store while I’m shopping. Believe me, I know firsthand our healing is not finished.” But: “Hear me clearly. America is not a racist country.”
The US had made tremendous progress, but was now going backwards. “A hundred years ago, kids in classrooms were taught the colour of their skin was their most important characteristic. And if they looked a certain way, they were inferior. Today, kids are being taught that the colour of their skin defines them, and if they look a certain way they’re an oppressor.
From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress at all, by doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal.”
This, he said, was wrong. “It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination.” Nor should a president who promised to bring us together “push agendas that tear us apart. The American family deserves better. And we know what better looks like.”
Just before Covid, Senator Scott added, “we had the most inclusive economy in my lifetime. The lowest unemployment rate ever recorded for African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians, and a 70-year low – nearly – for women. Hear me – wages were growing faster for the bottom than at the top. The bottom 25 percent saw their wages rise faster than the top 25 per cent.”
Having Having previously suffered racial discrimination, Mr Scott said he now experienced a “different kind of intolerance. I get called an ‘Uncle Tom’ and the n-word by progressives, by liberals.”
“And then,” according to the website spiked-online, “in great numbers, progressives and liberals” reacted to Mr Scott’s speech by repeating these slurs. His reply to what he called these “stunning” personal attacks was that “the Left has doubled down to attack not his policies but “the colour of my skin”.
A columnist on spiked commented that the uproar over Mr Scott’s rebuttal of Mr Biden had revealed that “white liberals are far more likely than blacks and other minorities to believe the country is racist”. The columnist also referred to polling data which suggested that “white liberals are far more ‘woke’ on racial matters than black Americans”.
A few days after Mr Scott’s speech, the American vice president, Kamala Harris, was asked if she agreed with him. “I don’t think America is a racist country,” she said, “but we also have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.”
Mr Biden was also asked what he thought of Mr Scott’s remarks. He replied: “I don’t think America’s racist, but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow [laws], and before that, slavery, have had a cost and we have to deal with it.”
About these rejoinders, a columnist on The Wall Street Journal commented as follows: “Mr Biden and Ms Harris would never have said what they did if the black Republican senator from South Carolina hadn’t used his moment to force their hands.”
In effect, both the president and the vice president thus conceded Mr Scott’s key point: “America is not a racist country.” He told them to “hear me” and they heard him.
The courageous junior senator has thus won an important intellectual, moral, and political victory against two of the world’s most powerful proponents of the divisive and destructive ideology of “systemic racism”.
* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the IRR, a think-tank that promotes political and economic freedom. Readers are invited to take a stand with the IRR by clicking here or sending an SMS with your name to 32823. Each SMS costs R1. Ts and Cs apply.