Posted on May 23, 2023

Black Conservatives Want Tim Scott to Ditch ‘Colorblind’ Messaging With 2024 Bid

Cheyanne M. Daniels, The Hill, May 21, 2023

Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) decision to jump into the 2024 presidential field on Friday has put questions of how he will navigate his identity as a Black Republican front and center.

Scott, the only Black member of his party in the Senate, has spent much of his career skirting around his identity. Although he has acknowledged growing up in a poor, single-parent household and coming “from cotton to Congress,” he has also pushed back against arguments around race and representation to focus instead on conservative policy.

But some say this strategy will not work if Scott wants to be successful in his journey to the White House.

“The colorblind ideology is never going to work,” said Felecia Killings, a Black conservative who’s founder and CEO of the Felecia Killings Foundation and the Conscious Conservative Movement.


Scott — and the GOP — need to appeal to Black men in 2024, Killings said, and speaking directly to Black men and the issues they’re focused on will draw more of these voters to the GOP’s team.


Democrats have become increasingly worried about Black voter support because policies addressing some of Black Americans’ top concerns — including federal protections against restrictive voting laws, student loan debt relief, criminal justice reform and police reform measures — have stalled under the Biden administration.

Still, only about 1 in 10 Black adults identify with the Republican Party, according to a survey by Pew Research Center. The survey found Black Republicans are more likely to support individualistic approaches to addressing racial inequality, and they’re more likely to say racist acts committed by individual people are the bigger problem for Black people, as opposed to systemic racism.

But Scott will need to distance himself from this individualistic approach on the campaign trail, said Whitley Yates, director of diversity and engagement for the Indiana Republican Party, and he may even need to share the experiences he has gone through as a Black person in America.

“To be Black in America is to never have lived here without racism,” said Yates. {snip}


That’s not to say Scott hasn’t tried to balance his identity as a Black man with his identity as a Republican.

Scott was part of the fight to pass the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act; he co-chairs the Congressional Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus, where he introduced legislation this year condemning bomb threats against HBCUs; and in 2021, he joined Democratic Sens. Jacky Rosen (Nev.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) to launch the Senate Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations to fight racism and antisemitism.

But stepping onto the presidential stage presents a bigger challenge for him, said Paris Dennard, a conservative political analyst {snip}


Dennard said that it’s time for the Republican Party to stop pretending “identity politics” isn’t a working strategy — and one they don’t already use just as much as they accuse Democrats of.

“People say they don’t want to play identity politics, but they do all the time. Democrats have done it for years and won,” said Dennard. “Quite frankly, I think Republicans need to just embrace it. {snip} Sen. Tim Scott could help facilitate the conversation of more engagement with specifically Black men.”

With such a diverse candidate lineup on the GOP ballot thus far, Dennard added, the party has an opportunity to push back against ideas about who and what Republicans stand for.

“You can’t underestimate the impact that can have on the minds of the next generation who are looking for people that look like them and have the same values,” said Dennard. “And when you see Sen. Tim Scott up there with that opportunity, it’s a good thing. And I think it’s a good thing for Republicans to highlight the diversity of the Republican Party: geographic diversity, racial diversity, gender diversity, these sorts of things.”