Senator Tim Scott (R., S.C.) spoke on the Senate floor about race relations and law enforcement on Wednesday, and his comments drew deserved praise from fellow senators and other public figures. He spoke of the “trust gap that has been growing for decades,” and finished with a sincere call for supporting law enforcement and for unity as an “American family.”
Scott began by describing incidents in which African Americans have died in altercations with police officers, as well as his own experience with discrimination by police:
Some will say, maybe even scream, “But they have criminal records — they’re criminals, they’ve spent time in jail!” But while having a record should not sentence you to death, I say, “Okay then, I will share with you some of my own experience or the experience of good friends and other professions.”
In the course of one year I have been stopped seven times by law enforcement officers. Not four, not five, not six, but seven times in one year as an elected official. Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some other reason just as trivial.
In the course of the speech, Scott described being followed by officers waiting for him to improperly signal a turn, as well as heading to dinner with a friend and being pulled over because his car might be stolen — despite no report that the car he owned had been stolen. His brother, a decorated soldier, was also pulled over by an officer and asked if his car was stolen because it was a Volvo.
After telling the story a friend who was continually pulled over in D.C. over suspicions regarding his driving a Chrysler 300, Scott shared the shameful result of that over-reaching: “He sold that car, and bought a more obscure form of transportation. He was tired of being targeted. Imagine the frustration, the irritation, the sense of loss of dignity that accompanies each of these stops.”
A vivid moment came toward the end of the speech, when he described how even being a U.S. senator—with a pin designating him as such—does not make him immune to this treatment in his own:
I recall walking into an office building just last year after being here for 5 years on the Capitol. And the officer looked at me and said with a little attitude, “The Pin I know, but you I don’t. Show me your ID.” I’ll tell you, I was thinking to myself, “Either he thinks I’m committing a crime, impersonating a member of congress, or…or what?” Well, I’ll tell you that later that evening I received a phone call from his supervisor apologizing for the behavior. Mr. President, that is at least the third phone call that I have received from a supervisor or chief of police since I have been in the Senate. So while I thank God I have not endured bodily harm, I have, however, felt the pressure applied by the scales of justice when they are slanted. I have felt the anger, the frustration the sadness, and the humiliation, that comes from feeling like you are being targeted for nothing more than being just yourself.
After saying in forceful terms that violence against police “never, ever” acceptable, he also said,
There are hundreds, thousands, of stories of officers who go beyond the call of duty. Ms. Taylor, as I spoke about Monday night, at the Dallas incident was covered—covered completely—by at least 3 officers who were willing to lose their life to save hers. We have a real opportunity to be grateful and thankful to men and women in uniform.
He also revealed how two white police officers demonstrated memorable solidarity with him in a very personal way—by refusing to enter an event that then-Congressman Scott was not being allowed into.
His concluding call to action: “We must find a way to fill these cracks in the very foundation of our country.”