Politics & Policy

Sen. Tim Scott Declares ‘We Are Not a Racist Country,’ Argues Dems’ Focus on Race Obstructs Police Reform

Senator Tim Scott (R., S.C.) speaks in Washington, D.C. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

While unveiling the Republican police reform bill on Wednesday, Senator Tim Scott said that the U.S. is “not a racist country” and criticized Democrats for what he saw as their relentless focus on race, advocating a discrete approach to policy solutions designed to address police brutality.

Scott, the Senate’s only black Republican, remarked in a press conference held to unveil the legislation that “some people enjoy talking about systemic racism” and “want to define everything from a racist perspective.”

“We don’t spend time on the definition of a word, but we spend time on the definition of the problem and the definition of the solution,” the South Carolina senator said, adding that Americans are often given the “false, binary choice” of backing either black Americans or law enforcement.

“I don’t know how to tell people the nation is not racist. I’ll try again: we are not a racist country,” Scott said. “We deal with racism because there is racism in the country. Both are true, not mutually exclusive.”

The GOP police-reform bill, dubbed the Justice Act, would provide incentives for police departments to ban choke holds, strengthen reporting requirements for departments to disclose when an officer’s use of force results in death or serious injury, fund more police body cameras, and mandate that the Justice Department come up with guidelines for deescalating police encounters, among other reforms. The bill also makes lynching a federal hate crime and establishes a commission to examine the social situation of black men and boys in the country.

“I don’t worry about the definitions that people want to use, it’s good for headlines, but it’s really bad for policy. We’re going to focus on getting something done,” Scott concluded at the press conference.

President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday encouraging police officers to limit the use of deadly force in the line of duty. The order detailed the administration’s initiatives to encourage high standards for use of force, track officer misconduct, and bring in social workers and mental health professionals when responding to certain emergency calls.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell promised Wednesday to take up the Republican bill quickly and encouraged Democrats to lend it their support. Democrats in both legislative chambers have meanwhile criticized the GOP bill, saying it does not include enough reforms for them to back it. House Democrats have introduced a separate police reform bill that McConnell said he will not bring to the floor should it reach the Senate.

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