5 Questions For: SC state Rep. John R. King (D) on ‘token African-Americans’ and the big blue tent
When Raw Story caught up to South Carolina state Rep. John R. King (D), who represents Rock Hill, a district just 15 minutes south of Charlotte, his voice was still recovering from Wednesday night’s assembly, but he still called his convention experience “beautiful.” It was also, he said, a rare chance for Democrats in a traditionally red state to enjoy a feeling of community.
“The excitement that you get being around Democrats is just overwhelming,” King said Thursday afternoon, before he criticized what he described as tokenizing efforts toward inclusion by the Republican party, compared to the more comprehensive way his party attracts more people.
Raw Story: What are your pet causes this year? What are the main issues not only for your district, but for you as a member of the party?
King: As a member of the party, I applaud our party for their stance on equal rights for all people. I find that to be something that we as a party needed to be upfront about and forward with. I love the love inclusion that our party offers. But most importantly, they have talked about education, they’ve talked about building the middle class and moving forward in building a middle class and so that is a very important issue. They talked about infrastructure, items that will build communities, and education. Those are all key issues that are very important to my constituents, and to make sure that they’re safe when it comes to their jobs.
So those are the issues and the concerns that I receive from many of my constituents: to make sure they can love who they want to love, make sure that they can have good, accessible, affordable health care, make sure they are able to be educated and further their education farther than K-12 and to do post-secondary education. I’m excited about what the Democratic Party has to offer, what our platform is all about.
Raw Story: There is a criticism out there that what you call “love inclusion” alienates this party from at least one perception of “mainstream America. How do you respond?
King: You know what? That one percent or whatever percentage of America who pledge allegiance to the flag should understand that we are a party who truly understand and honor our pledge that we make to our country. When we make that pledge, we want to include everybody. So I make no apologies for what we do as the Democratic party in reference to the inclusion of everyone. I have not faced that issue in my district and I will not face that issue, because I will not allow people to come to me and make it an issue.
Raw Story: On her show Sunday, Melissa Harris-Perry talked about “the big blue tent,” and the challenges that this party particularly faces because there are so many different constituencies involved in it. How are those efforts going this year.
King: If you watch the speeches, if you watch the people who are here who are non-political people, who have endorsed this party, who have said this party, the Democratic party, has been more inclusive, I think that we are bringing people into the fold and we are not being exclusive and it has not been an issue because when you bring all of those people into the fold, you’re giving them greater ideas and you’re building on that foundation so that you can be a stronger party, so that you can address those issues effectively and efficiently and more intelligently. So I think by including more people, we’re educating ourselves in issues that otherwise we would not have knowledge about.
I look at the Republican party. They have not been inclusive toward the African-American community, so they cannot go forth and understand the issues that affect the African-American community because they have not sought or talked to African-Americans. They have talked to token African-Americans, but not true African-Americans who understand the calls and who have been in the trenches, who have worked in our community for causes that are near and dear to our people.
Raw Story: Is activism a must to be part of a community of color?
King: I think knowing the community is, and activism is a part of that.
Raw Story: This question has been going around a lot this week: are residents in your district better off now than they were four years ago?
King: Yes they are. They are extremely better off than what they were four years ago. My constituents now have an economy that is stimulated. When I took office, South Carolina was on the brink of bankruptcy in so many ways: we were gonna have to lay off teachers, we were gonna have to lay off firemen, we were gonna have to lay off police officers, we were gonna have to lay off people who work at the state level and the county level and the municipality level. And because of President Barack Obama, we now have a surplus, and now we’re able to give back to our teachers and offer our state employees incentives to stay on board and to give them a cost of living increase. So yes, we are better in South Carolina and in our district, because of President Barack Obama.