In a Senate floor speech Wednesday, South Carolina’s junior senator Tim Scott said he understands and shares the frustration many in black America have with police, noting he has been pulled over seven times while driving in the past year alone.
Scott, the first black senator in South Carolina’s history, has been doing a series of speeches this week after fatal shootings of black men and police officers last week. While his first speech on Monday focused on protecting most police from the wrongful actions of a few, Scott on Wednesday focused on the feelings of “humiliation” and sense of injustice that he and other African-Americans feel when they believe they are deliberately targeted.
“Was I speeding sometimes? Sure,” Scott said in the 16-minute speech. “But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood. Or for some other reason that was just as trivial.”
South Carolina’s junior senator also said he has been challenged by US Capitol Police who doubted Scott was actually a senator, despite now being in his sixth year of Washington service and fourth year in the Senate. Scott spoke about one officer who he said demanded to see his Senate identification: “The (senator) pin I recognize. You, I don’t.” Scott said he’s had a supervisor apologize to him on three different occasions in the past year.
Scott is one of just two black members in the US Senate. Several polls have shown he is South Carolina’s most popular Republican statewide elected official. But he said he “wept” when he watched North Charleston native Walter Scott “get shot and killed in the back.”
He said his brother — an Army sergeant major — was once stopped while driving because the officer thought his Volvo was stolen. The senator said a black staffer who works with him sold a Chrysler 300M because he was tired of being stopped so many times in DC.
“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,” Scott said.
Scott reiterated his Monday point that his issue is not with law enforcement, but the attitudes and targeting employed by some. On Wednesday, he noted two officers who stuck up for him before he was a senator when an event host would not allow him inside. The two officers, Scott said, had also refused to enter the event as long as Scott was left out.
The senator said he does not know many black men who have not had similar experiences. He urged his Senate counterparts — and the public at large– not to brush them off.
“Recognize that just because you do not feel the pain, the anguish of another, does not mean it does not exist,” he said. “To ignore their struggles, our struggles, does not make them disappear. It simply leaves you blind.”
Scott plans to speak one more time on Thursday on what he believes are ways “the American family” can heal itself.