You stay classy, New York Times.
WHEN Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina announced on Monday that she would name Representative Tim Scott to the Senate, it seemed like another milestone for African-Americans. Mr. Scott will complete the term of Senator Jim DeMint, who is leaving to run Heritage Foundation. He will be the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction; the first black Republican senator since 1979, when Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts retired; and, indeed, only the seventh African-American ever to serve in the chamber.
But this “first black” rhetoric tends to interpret African-American political successes — including that of President Obama — as part of a morality play that dramatizes “how far we have come.” It obscures the fact that modern black Republicans have been more tokens than signs of progress.
The trope of the black conservative has retained a man-bites-dog newsworthiness that is long past its shelf life. Clichés about fallen barriers are increasingly meaningless; symbols don’t make for coherent policies. Republicans will not gain significant black support unless they take policy positions that advance black interests. No number of Tim Scotts — or other cynical tokens — will change that.