James Taranto @ The Wall Street Journal:
It’s the first day of the 113th Congress, and one of the new faces in the Senate belongs to a man who was re-elected to the House: South Carolina’s Tim Scott. Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Scott to replace Jim DeMint, who in turn is filling the shoes of the Heritage Foundation’s longtime president, Ed Feulner.
Scott is the first black senator since Roland Burris departed the chamber in 2010. In addition, as Adolph Reed, a University of Pennsylvania political scientist, noted in a recent New York Times op-ed, “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.”
For Reed, who specializes in the history of black America, this is cause for complaint rather than celebration. “Modern black Republicans have been more tokens than signs of progress.”
This reminds us of the late Geraldine Ferraro’s March 2008 comment on then-Sen. Barack Obama’s meteoric rise: “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. . . . He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.” Ferraro, who supported Mrs. Clinton, didn’t use the T-word, but she was pilloried by the left and forced to apologize for suggesting that Obama’s political strength was a case of tokenism.
Yet the substance of Ferraro’s comment (apart from a dubious feminist complaint, which we elided above) is hard to dispute. It’s almost impossible to imagine that a white junior senator from Illinois would have wrested the Democratic presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton, much less been elected president. Obama’s race was a big part of his appeal to voters, stimulating black pride and assuaging white guilt. His supporters hailed both his election and re-election as a triumph of “diversity.”
Other commentators have said the same of Scott’s appointment to the Senate. National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar, noting that Haley is only the nation’s second Indian-American governor, wrote that she and Scott are both “tea party-aligned conservatives who took on the party establishment and won. . . . If it wasn’t for the much-maligned tea party, the Republican Party would be even more homogeneous than it is today.”
That would be the same Tea Party that Reed, echoing four years’ worth of mainstream media propaganda, accuses of “thinly veiled racism.” Does that mean he disagrees that the Tea Party is a source of GOP diversity?
Not really. “Tokenism” and “diversity” are synonyms. Both refer to the practice of advancing individuals in a way that preferentially takes account of their race for symbolic reasons. When you approve of the people or institution doing it, you use the euphemism “diversity.” When you disapprove, you use the dysphemism “tokenism.” (“Affirmative action” is a euphemism when applied to the practice but a dysphemism when applied to individual beneficiaries.)