On Wednesday, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott––the only black senator at the Republican conference and one of just two in the upper chamber––delivered a personal speech on the Senate floor addressing the “deep divide” between communities and law enforcement. In the course of one year as an elected official, Scott asserted, he has been pulled over by law enforcement no less than seven times. “Was I speeding sometimes? Sure,” he admitted. “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’s address is the second of three in response to a lone gunman shooting and killing five officers in Dallas last week.
Scott’s experiences underscored a need to acknowledge the “trust gap” between the black community and police: “[Because] while so many officers do good ― and we should be very thankful in support of all those officers that do good ― some simply do not. I’ve experienced it myself,” he said. He then described several encounters with police officers, including one where he was stopped because the officer suspected his car had been stolen. Scott’s brother, a major with the U.S. Army, experienced a similar incident. He then told the story of one of his staffers, 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” to avoid being targeted.
Scott’s professional status has not spared him from the humiliation of racial profiling. He recalled the time a Capitol police officer demanded Scott show identification. “It’s easy to identify a U.S. senator by our pin,” Scott said. “I recall walking into an office building just last year after being here for five years on the Capitol, and the officer looked at me, with a little attitude, and said: ‘The pin, I know. 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’ve received from a supervisor or the chief of police since I’ve been in the Senate.”
Scott implored his colleagues in the Senate to “imagine the frustration, the irritation, the sense of a loss of dignity that accompanies each of those stops.” He ended his speech with a
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