In a speech on the floor of the Senate Wednesday, the nation’s only black Republican senator described some of his experiences as a black man profiled by police, both in his home state of South Carolina and in the nation’s Capitol. He recounted the times he’s been pulled over by cops in the past year (seven times), pointing out that his profession isn’t sufficient to shield him from discriminatory and racist police practices.
After a Senate discussion about criminal justice reform, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) took almost 20 minutes to get candid about the reality of being black in America and why criminal justice reform is needed.
“In the course of one year, I’ve been stopped seven times by law enforcement officers. Not four, not five, not six, but seven times in one year as an elected official,” he said. “Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the times, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood, or some other reason just as trivial.”
Scott detailed several times he was followed by police for reasons he couldn’t determine., clearly indicating that the reason given by the police is often not the actual reason for the stop. Senator Scott also admitted that he’s been questioned and profiled by Capitol Hill police.
“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. Imagine the frustration, the irritation, the sense of a loss of dignity that accompanies each of those stops,” Scott said. “I have felt the anger, the frustration, the sadness, and the humiliation that comes with feeling like you’re being targeted for nothing more than being just yourself.”
Scott’s remarks came nearly one week after videos emerged of Philando Castile after he was fatally shot in front of a 4-year-old girl in Minnesota and Alton Sterling was shot while pinned to the ground in Louisisna.
Senator Scott also spoke about the ambush killing of five Dallas police officers during what had been a peaceful protest march following the videotaped killings of Castile and Sterling.
“Our nation is experiencing turmoil we haven’t seen in generations,” he said. “There are wounds that have existed for more than a generation, and it’s time for the American family to work together to heal some of these wounds.”
Talking to his fellow senators, Scott told them to “recognize that just because you do not feel the pain, the anguish of another, does not mean it does not exist.”