Another thing you might not know: He was a superstar in high school and had to play ball in college when a car accident ended that dream.
These are just two of the many telling details from Scott’s newly released memoir, “America: A Redemption Story.” His story is a delight to read and erases some of the brambles regarding Donald Trump, whom he both praises and criticizes, the mainstream media (well, you can guess it), and his own views on race, victimization and discrimination. idea of the United States of America against the narratives of division so prevalent today.
Although I’ve met Scott several times, he’s a bit of an enigma to me and, probably, to the rest of the country.
How did a black child raised by a single mother in North Charleston, SC, his self-esteem dulled daily by his reflection in the mirror, become the handsome politician who holds no malice towards anyone – and whose ability to let the water dripping from his back made him the envy of the ducks?
We will start with a small miracle. At 19, Scott walked into an orthodontist’s office in Charleston, SC, without an appointment, and managed to work his way into a seat in the dental chair. Could anything be done about his overbite, he asked?
Dr. Monte S. Harrington asked the young man how much he could really afford to pay for braces, and a deal was struck: Scott would pay $40/month until his braces came off. No wonder Scott always seems to smile.
“America” is an easy read, made up of short stories about people, events, and historical moments that serve as didactic narratives. Parables, even. All presumptive candidates for high office, especially those eyeing the White House, write books to reveal themselves to the electorate, but few are as readable or inspiring as this one.
Scott introduces us to Madame CJ Walker, the first self-made black woman millionaire. The daughter and brother of slaves (she was born after emancipation), Walker might have suffered from hair loss, but decided to fix it instead. She researched, experimented with and invented scalp and hair products that are still sold under her name.
Scott’s point: if she can do it, you can do it.
The same can be said for Scott, who grew up in poverty but benefited from the love of his mother, a nurse’s aide in a hospital, and his maternal grandparents. He also benefited from mentors, especially John Moniz, a Chick-fil-A executive who invested $40,000 in Scott’s first insurance business and became a surrogate father figure.
As Scott charts the trajectory of our nation, we are all part of his search for identity and, ultimately, redemption. But our way forward, he writes, cannot be forged with a victim-oppressor mindset. Scott instead believes that each person is a potential hero who can harness and turn despair into hope. If he can do it, he writes, you can too.
It all sounds good – and lucky too. But still: Who is he, really? What makes a black Southerner a conservative Republican? How could he? Or, as some would have it, how to dare he?
Scott chafes that he is a token African American for the GOP. After MSNBC’s Joy Reid called it a “diversity patina” for the Republican Party, Scott wrote, “I would say she has a limited view of the ability of people like us.” He’s been called “Uncle Tim” and received vile comments from critics, including those who apparently can’t accept a black conservative. For Scott, the idea that there is only one way to think is as outrageous as any racial epithet.
The guiding light in Scott’s life is his faith in God and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Scott does not proselytize in his book, although he is not afraid of scripture or prayer. Above all, it offers practical advice for living a life of hope. He urges his readers to stop watching the news and instead think about what matters most in life. Family first.
Unlike so many committed to perpetuating America’s racial divide, Scott doesn’t focus on the past except for the future. He certainly doesn’t sidestep slavery or his experience growing up in the South. He suffered the same indignities familiar to all minorities – and he bears the same scars.
Nonetheless, he prefers to dwell on lessons learned from the tragedies of history, from the Civil War to the 2015 murders of nine parishioners by a white supremacist while praying in Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church. Even from that atrocity, he found hope and, thanks in large part to the families of the victims, who all forgave the killer, redemption.
“This is what faith looks like,” Scott wrote. Some might call it a miracle.