A black Republican senator from the South hosting a black Republican candidate for president at a university with a sordid racial past sounds like the kind of thing that could only happen on Friday the 13th.
And on Nov. 13, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina will host 2016 hopeful Ben Carson at Bob Jones University. Scott has been holding events around the state introducing GOP presidential candidates to the South Carolina electorate.
But the event is not some random blip to be blamed on the peculiarities of the calendar's most superstitious day. It’s actually a bold move from Scott, who generally shies away from drawing attention to race, to highlight racial progress in his home state. “Bob Jones [University] has done a tremendous job improving upon their previous reputation,” Scott told CQ Roll Call, adding the decision was made in coordination with both the university and the Carson campaign. “I think it echoes the progress made in South Carolina.”
Bob Jones University is a Protestant school in Greenville that barred black people from enrolling until 1971, more than 40 years after opening. In 2000, the school ended its ban on interracial dating when the university’s president, Bob Jones III, admitted that the school's prior stance on segregation was wrong.
South Carolina has endured a recent rash of racial incidents, including the death of an unarmed black man shot in the back by a white police officer in April and the mass shooting of nine black churchgoers in June.
Scott was deeply affected by both incidents. The former encouraged him to pursue body camera legislation, while the latter involved the death of his friend, Democratic state Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney.
The aftermath of the church shooting led to national calls for the removal of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina Statehouse. While Scott was highly influential in the decision to remove the flag, he did not get in front of Gov. Nikki R. Haley and, well, everyone else in the country who demanded the flag come down.
Scott has repeatedly called attention to the community’s reaction to the shooting — one of non-violence and forgiveness — which he said inspired his decision to host the town hall at Bob Jones University.
“When you examine your own motivations from a faithful perspective, it leads to you a positive and constructive, and sometimes correcting, conclusion,” Scott said. “Through that internal analysis on who we are as a state and where we need to go as a nation, I thought that would be the perfect location.”