Black people are literally magic.
Now, I don’t believe in magic, but I’m pretty sure white people do.
The only reason anyone could subject a people to the invisible-but-natural force of white supremacy is if they believed we possessed a power that they don’t have. There is no way any human being could deny Black people access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for this long without believing that we are sustained by some mysterious or supernatural force gifted to us by our ancestors, evolution, or the same almighty God that endowed them with their unalienable rights
And, perhaps, the most magical negro of all is the Black scapegoat.
A scapegoat is defined as a “person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place.” We’ve always heard stories about the invisible but always present enigma that exists solely to wipe away the sins of white people.
Even though more white women voted for a racist president than one of their own, they weren’t racist because, according to them, they “dated a Black dude in college.” White men weren’t racist because “one of their best friends is Black.” Or perhaps they had a Black brother-in-law. Or maybe they mentored an “inner-city,” “disadvantaged,” “underprivileged,” “urban” child from a “marginalized community”...You know: a Black kid.
Where is this unseen, formerly illiterate, thug whose magical negro penis and friendly demeanor absolves all the sins of white supremacy? Did he move up North and take a job in Santa Claus’ toy factory? Did he work on a free-range Easter Bunny farm? Were they employed in the Tooth Fairy Cash-For-Incisors financial exchange? And why can we never meet this guy? I’ve never seen this person at Facebook photos or in Applebees chilling with Karen’s crew.
I didn’t believe that the Black scapegoat existed.
And then I met this guy:
Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has a seat at the table.
As the lone Black Republican in the Senate, Scott is not just responsible for towing the party line and representing his state, he is the epitome of the Black scapegoat who proves the GOP isn’t racist. And, because he is magic, he always finds a way to Houdini his party out of the box of racism the GOP has willingly put themselves in.
The reason Scott’s statement on Trump made me cringe was not that he said it 12 hours after Trump called on the Proud Boys to “stand by.” It’s because I feel like I actually know Tim Scott. Aside from the fact that we both grew up poor in South Carolina and share an interest in data on police shootings, he represents my home state, attended the same college as my sister (Charleston Southern University) and he represented me when I lived in North Charleston, S.C., and he served on the County Council.
In the wake of the conversations about police brutality after the death of George Floyd, Senate Republicans tapped their magical Black scapegoat, to lead the party’s police reform legislation. In doing so, Scott’s office reached out to The Root and offered to walk us through the GOP police reform package, an issue that he knows more about—and I can’t stress this enough—more than any other elected official in the federal government.
No U.S. senator or government official knows more about police brutality than Tim Scott, full stop.
For years, Scott has been pushing a piece of legislation. Named after one of his constituents who was infamously shot by police officer Michael Slager, the Walter Scott Notification Act would simply require every law enforcement agency in America to report all police shootings and deaths to the federal government.
Scott tried to pass the proposal as a stand-alone bill in 2015, to no avail. When he attempted to attach it to funding legislation, it failed. In 2018, as the First Step Act worked its way through the Senate, Scott attempted to slide his much-needed idea in as an amendment to the groundbreaking criminal reform bill. But police unions whispered in the ears of his fellow legislators, and once again, the Walter Scott Notification Act fell by the wayside.
During our discussion, I specifically asked Scott about systemic racism, and he danced around the semantics with the agility of a skilled ballerina. He used every imaginable euphemism to avoid acknowledging the systemic racism in policing. Like his party leader, Scott simply refused to condemn white supremacy.
It was magic.
Here are a few excerpts from our conversation:
- “There’s racism in America and I do not think we are a racist country.”
- “I think there are racial outcomes in policing, even though I don’t think police by and large are racist. I think that we have pockets of racism within the police departments, but I think most people who become cops do so for the right reasons.”
- “I don’t think the wording is important.”
- “I’m not a philosopher, so I don’t sit back and think through these definitions as much as others do.”
- I call it ‘outcomes.’”
- “I just want to find a way to create a better outcome for my nephew and my cousins, who are 3 and 4 years old, don’t have to worry about systemic, systematic or whatever you guys call the crap that you and I have to worry about”
He literally could not say it.
Such are the wages for securing a “seat at the table.”
Despite what some people would have you believe, there is little to no value in simply being present in “the room where it happens.” Why would anyone have a goal to dine with people who want them to choke? And who wants to eat at the table with the people who watched your people starve to death while they got fat on the food you prepared? The problem is not that Black people haven’t had a seat at the table. The problem is that the table exists.
Because Tim Scott is “one of their best friends,” he has been granted a seat at the table.
The table is white supremacy.
With a flick of Scott’s tongue, Trump’s white supremacist call-to-arms evaporated into thin air. The GOP’s white supremacy launderer wondrously rinse away the sins of his racist co-conspirators because that is the purpose of his seat. Not even Tim Scott believes Trump “misspoke” but that is the reason he exists in the party—to soak up the Black blood his bosses slosh around.
All scapegoats are magic.
The term “scapegoat” actually derives from the 16th chapter of Leviticus, when God told Aaron how to absolve the sins of his entire community. The Creator of life, liberty and the pursuit of all that other stuff instructed Moses’ brother to find two random goats and flip a coin. Then he would take the goat who lost the coin toss, slit its throat, pull out its intestines, burn them, sprinkle some of the goat’s blood around town and set the goat’s body on fire.
After he presented the goat as a burned offering, he was instructed to turn to the scapegoat:
He is to lay both hands on the head of the scapegoat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task... The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.
There is nothing wrong with being a scapegoat as long as Tim Scott knows that the only reason he isn’t being disemboweled is that he was just lucky enough to win a coin toss.
Even though goats were valuable, the other Israelites wouldn’t fuck with a wild scapegoat because they were unclean. So, somewhere in the wilderness, there must have been a tribe of scapegoats who sincerely believed that something special about them made them more worthy of life than all the other goats.
Instead of just being a lucky goat, the surviving scapegoats probably believed they were free because they were smarter or better than all of the other goats. I’d wager that if we asked them about their time among the Israelites, they would go on and on about how the Israelites treated them well and offered them the opportunity to rise above their humble beginnings in that dirty goat pen.
And, if you mentioned the fact that the Israelites actually created the goat pen; if you brought up their dead, disemboweled fellow goats who were slaughtered, disemboweled, set on fire, and put on an altar as a burnt offering, I bet the scapegoats would say:
“At least they got a seat at the table.”