We’re living through an age of deep pessimism—on both sides of the political aisle. On one side you’ve got the Democratic politicians and pundits who see oppression in everything, while on the other side, too many Republicans believe this great nation is one election away from crumbling like the Roman Empire. Indeed, the real divide isn’t between Left and Right; it’s between people who view the future with optimism and those who view it with pessimism. And that’s what we saw on display in the back and forth between South Carolina Senator and Presidential Candidate Tim Scott and host of the morning TV show “The View” Sonny Hostin.

During Tim Scott’s appearance on the show, Hostin pressed Scott on the topic of system racism and Scott’s claim during his campaign launch that the United States is not a racist country.

“When it comes to racial inequality, it persists in five core aspects of life in the US: economics, education, health care, criminal justice, and housing,” Hostin insisted. “At nearly every turn, these achievements were fought, threatened, and erased, most often by white violence. You have indicated that you don’t believe in systemic racism. What is your definition of systemic racism?”

Senator Scott tried to reply, explaining his own personal achievements and those of other Black Americans were not anomalies, but at every reply, he was interrupted, harangued, and then silenced when the program repeatedly cut to commercial break. Hostin for her part kept insisting that Scott and other Black Americans who make it in America are the exceptions and not the rule.

Scott did his best. “I look back at the fact that my grandfather, born in 1921 in Salley, South Carolina, when he was on a sidewalk [and] a white person was coming, he had to step off and not make eye contact,” Scott said. “That man believed then what some doubt now: in the goodness of America. Because he believed that having faith in God, faith in himself and faith in what the future could hold for his kids would unleash opportunities in ways that you could not imagine.”

“Yesterday’s exception is today’s rule,” Scott concluded.

Republican presidential candidate Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) speaks to guest during the Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride event on June 03, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. The annual event helps to raise money for veteran charities and highlight Republican candidates and platforms. Scott Olson/Getty Images

For his pains, he was repeatedly insulted and lectured at by the hosts and even booed by their liberal audience, who are apparently deeply committed to believing the worst about this country.

It was a shocking display. Tim Scott doesn’t need a lecture about the history of oppression aimed at Black Americans. He’s well aware of them. But he’s chosen optimism, chosen to measure the progress we’ve made as a sign that our country will do even better. In this he differs from Hostin and her ilk, who weaponize racism like a historical stick to beat people with.

Progressives like Hostin—herself extremely economically privileged and successful—push Americans to see present-day Black Americans only as the descendants of slaves and a “people of plight” whose successes were achieved by either luck, the benevolence of white people, or the charity of government.

I understand this negative mentality because I used to embrace it. A Black child of a single mother who experienced homelessness multiple times as a kid and a multitude of struggles in his early adult life, I had all of the excuses as to why I wasn’t succeeding in life: Look where I came from.

But once I embraced optimism, decided to see myself as a victor, not a victim, I appreciated the struggle I went through because it showed how far I had come and my strength in determination—much like Tim Scott’s interpretation of his family’s generational progress.

Life is not about where you begin, it’s about where you finish, and the timeline of Black Americans doesn’t need to be determined by how we started.

We don’t need to embrace being known as the “people of plight.” That’s not how I see us. I see us as the people who overcame, who chose to thrive in spite of, and who are capable of creating our own successes without other people’s pity and handouts.

Sonny Hostin has determined what Black America is, but Tim Scott knows what we can be.

Adam B. Coleman is the author of “Black Victim To Black Victor” and writer on Substack at adambcoleman.substack.com.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.