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Tim Scott, don’t be a token senator

The future senator from South Carolina is the addressee of this week's MHP open letter, delivered by guest host Joy Reid.
/ Source: Melissa Harris Perry

The future senator from South Carolina is the addressee of this week's MHP open letter, delivered by guest host Joy Reid.

When South Carolina’s Jim DeMint quit the U.S. Senate, he handpicked his successor: Republican Congressman Tim Scott. The fact that Scott is African-American is becoming as much of an issue as the similarity of his politics to those of DeMint and his Tea Party flock.

In a , University of Pennsylvania political science professor Adolph Reed took Scott and his fellow Republicans to task, writing that the GOP “will not gain significant black support unless they take policy positions that advance black interests,” adding that “no number of Tim Scotts—or other cynical tokens—will change that.” This week, our weekly open letter was delivered by guest host Joy Reid to the future senator from South Carolina, in the hope that he will somehow shuck that label.

Dear Senate-designate Tim Scott,It’s me… Joy Reid.Man, you definitely made some history in the deep south on Monday when Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina appointed you to fill out two years of retiring Sen. Jim DeMint’s term. You’ll be the first black senator from the south since reconstruction, the first African-American Republican senator in more than three decades, and only the seventh African-American to serve as a U.S. senator. While your appointment is seen by some as a measure of “progress,” others have called you a mere token, elevated only to show that the GOP has gotten the diversity memo it missed this past election.So, Mr. Scott, let’s move past whatever discussion there is of the historic nature of your appointment and talk about you. Let’s talk about your reaction to the deadly shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School. [You said,] “I think the solutions are not necessarily in new legislation, perhaps the solution starts with us examining the mental conditions of the person, and the persons in the past that desire to create the atrocities that we’ve seen recently…We should also look at an opportunity for us to engage this entire culture of moral decay and of violence.”Wow. OK, let me get this straight. No new legislation?You saw nothing about the shooting in Connecticut that should lead to new legislation? I ask only because I know you are, in fact, a fan of legislation–especially when it comes to guns. You were first elected to Congress just two years ago and yet you’ve already co-sponsored at least four pieces of legislation on guns:1. House Bill 3814, which would prevent gun dealers from informing law enforcement about individuals making multiple gun purchases.2. The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 that would make it possible for people to carry concealed firearms in almost every state.3. Protecting Gun Owners in Bankruptcy Act of 2011. Because people filing bankruptcy should be able to exempt $3,000 from their property list for their guns according to you.4. The Second Amendment Enforcement Act, that if passed would take away the ability from Washington, D.C. to determine its own gun laws.Perhaps it should be no surprise. You, the card-carrying member of the NRA, who rode to victory with Tea Party backing, made your position clear when you first ran for Congress saying, “I stand strongly in support of our Second Amendment rights. The constitution grants South Carolinians the right to defend themselves and their families, and I will continue fighting to ensure that right is not weakened in any way.”Really, Congressman, all of this…when of the 142 guns used by the perpetrators of the 62 mass murders since 1982 in this country, three quarters of those guns were obtained legally. All of this when in 2008 and 2009 gun deaths were the leading cause of death among black teens.Let’s be clear, even though you stand to be the only African-American senator in 2013, this is not about race. You said when you chose not to join the Congressional Black Caucus that your campaign was never about race. And that’s fine. You will be the senator representing the great state of South Carolina, not the state of African-Americans.But I do hope that as a senator, you’ll prove those who call you a “token” wrong, and that you’re not just a new face touting the Grand Old Party line.Sincerely, Joy