Tim Scott spoke out against racial profiling.
“Racial profiling is real,” the black Republican told his fellow members of the Charleston, S.C, city council a decade and a half ago. “It’s not the rule, but it is a consistent and pervasive problem in this country,” he said.
Scott said at the time that he was constantly pulled over because he “was in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time driving the wrong kind of car.”
He was 36 then.
He’s now 50 and a United States Senator.
And it’s still happening.
“In the course of one year, I’ve been stopped seven times by law enforcement officers,” Scott said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “Not four, not five, not six, but seven times in one year as an elected official.”
“Was I speeding sometimes? Sure,” he said. “But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some other reason just as trivial,” he said.
Scott told multiple stories about being stopped, harassed and questioned as a young man, an elected official and a U.S. Senator, even on Capitol Hill. “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 said.
Why was the senator revisiting this now?
He mentioned Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Philando Castile, all black men who lost their lives during questionable police altercations. The senator sought to remind us of their humanity. “These are people lost forever. Fathers, brothers, sons,” he said.
He added, “Some will say and maybe even scream, ‘But they have criminal records. They were criminals; they spent time in jail”.
“And while having a record should not sentence you to death, I say OK then,” Scott said. “I will share with you some of my own experiences […]”
Last night, CNN posted a story about Scott’s speech on their Facebook page. Here is the top comment, directed at Scott:
Perhaps stop breaking the law, idiot. There are millions of black people on the road that have probably never been pulled over a day in their life. Grow up Senator. Your pride seems bruised.
The comment had 951 Likes as of this writing. They might as well have thrown in “uppity.”
For too many Americans, the police are right no matter what, and blacks who criticize them are either lying or somehow deserve abuse.
There’s a word for this.
The importance of Scott’s speech is not that he’s saying anything others haven’t. It’s that he’s a black Republican admired by many conservatives who’s saying it. He’s saying it to people who don’t necessarily want to hear it.
He’s saying it to people who don’t believe it or don’t want to believe it.
Scott didn’t have to say anything. What possibly political advantage does he gain in advertising to the world that not only does racial profiling exist, but he’s been the frequent victim of it?
None — unless your mission is simply to change people’s minds.
Scott seemed eager to open eyes.
“To ignore their struggles, our struggles, does not make them disappear, it simply leaves you blind and the American family very vulnerable,” Scott said. “I simply ask you this, recognize that just because you don’t feel the pain, the anguish of another, does not mean it does not exist.”
“I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell,” Scott said, “no matter their profession, no matter their income, no matter their disposition in life.”
If Scott, a U.S. Senator, has constantly experienced this, what black Americans haven’t?
And if a black conservative Republican as respected as Tim Scott can’t change minds, who possibly can?