Sunday, Gov. Nikki Haley appointed a black man, Rep. Tim Scott, to the vacant South Carolina Senate seat previously occupied by James DeMint. Congressman Scott will be seated in January of 2013 and thus will become only the seventh black person ever to sit in the United States Senate.
In the entire history of the Senate, the unhappy record of black participation is limited to Hiram Rhodes Revel, February 1870 to March 1871; Blanche Kelso Bruce, March 1875 to March 1881; Edward Brooke, January 1967 to January 1979; Carol Moseley Braun, January 1993 to January 1999; Barack Obama, from January 2005 until he took office as our president in 2009, at which time he was succeeded by Roland Burris who held the office (as an appointee) until November 2010. Only three of these black people -- President Obama, Carol Moseley Braun and Ed Brooke -- have been popularly elected to that body, and together, they only served there for four terms. The doors to this club have been all but closed to the 13 percent of the United States' population that is black.
South Carolina's Republican governor has used the power of her office in a positive and inclusive manner this week. She has provided a positive beacon of light that directly contrasts with the exclusionary, negative messages often delivered by other members of her party such as Donald Trump and John Sununu. It would be helpful to the body politic of our country if there were more Nikki Haleys who were willing to use their power in such a constructive manner. Her action provides an excellent signal to her Republican Party that it must, in appointive and legislative positions, forward and recommend candidates who will attract the support and votes of black people.
The power brokers of the Democratic Party are strong verbal supporters of black representation, but not as senators of governors. We black people make a great backdrop for every picture of the Democratic faithful -- but we have nothing to show for it in the United States Senate, and but one governor in all the 50 states.
In this all-too-partisan country of ours, for many years, I have held the position that black Americans might be better served if 50 percent of us voted Republican and 50 percent voted Democratic. Gov. Haley knows with this appointment that she is sending a signal to citizens of every color that she is interested in the advancement of those black people whom she believes share her values, who will appropriately advance the interests of the people of South Carolina.
More than two decades ago I testified in Congress about how black people were "nibbling at the edges" of positions of power in the United States. To a great extent, this "nibbling" status continues. At least one Republican governor, however, has temporarily reformed the United States Senate. This one Republican has decided to break up the exclusionary Senate club -- at least for a little while
Clifford L. Alexander was Secretary of the Army from 1977 to 1981. He also served on the White House staffs of both President John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.