Following last week’s deadly shootings, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott gave a deeply personal speech on the Senate floor in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday about the “deep divide” between communities and law enforcement.
While many law enforcement officers do good, he said, some do not. “I’ve experienced it myself.”
Scott revealed that he has been stopped seven times in the course of one year as an elected official. “Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time I was pulled over for driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or something else just as trivial.”
Scott is one of two current African-American senators, and he’s the only black Republican in the body.
He described several encounters with police, including one where he was stopped because the officer suspected his car was stolen. He described a similar incident that happened to his brother, a command sergeant major in the U.S. Army. And he told the story of a staffer who was “pulled over so many times here in D.C. for absolutely no reason other than driving a nice car.” The staffer eventually traded in his Chrysler for a “more obscure form of transportation” because “he was tired of being targeted.”
“I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell no matter their profession. No matter their income, no matter their disposition in life,” he said.
He asked his Senate colleagues to “imagine the frustration, the irritation, the sense of a loss of dignity that accompanies each of those stops.”
Scott also described walking into an office building on Capitol Hill and having an officer ask him to show his ID even though he wore a Senate pin.
While he is thankful he has not faced bodily harm, he said, “there is absolutely nothing more frustrating, more damaging to your soul than when you know you’re following the rules and being treated like you are not.”
“We must find a way to fill these cracks in the very foundation of our country,” he said.
The senator ended with a plea to his colleagues to “recognize that just because you do not feel the pain, the anguish of another, does not mean it does not exist.”
Scott plans to speak further on the issue Thursday, saying he will be offering solutions “on how we get to where we need to go.”