U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican serving in the Senate, delivered a speech in which he described his experience of being questioned by police, allegedly because of his racial designation. Speaking in the Senate, he said “There’s a deep divide between the black community and law enforcement — a trust gap,” and added, “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.”
“The good Lord has given me a soapbox, and I’m going to use this soapbox to talk about what needs to be spoken about,” he told a South Carolina newspaper earlier this week. On July 12, he had praised police officers for their sacrifices, while on the next day he recalled some of the humiliations he has endured by cops since entering public office.
On July 13, Scott described encounters he has had with police in just one year. “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 said. “Imagine the frustration, the irritation, the sense of a loss of dignity that accompanies each of those stops.” He said that a black Congressional staffer, who had been pulled over several times "for absolutely no reason than that he had a nice car," has since traded in his Chrysler automobile for a "more obscure form of transportation."
On another occasion, Scott said that when entering one of the Senate’s offices wearing the lapel pin that identified him as a member of Congress, an officer stopped him to demand identification. “I was thinking to myself: Either he thinks I’m committing a crime, impersonating a member of Congress, or what?” Scott said. For that incident, Scott called on police for an apology for a third time. He is not the first legislator to have such a run-in with police: Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) scuffled with a Capitol police officer in 2006 who had not recognized her. The incident generated a firestorm of comment and repudiation.
But Scott had not revealed his humiliation until his speech on July 13. “While I thank God I have not endured bodily harm, I have, however, felt the pressure applied by the scales of justice when they are slanted,” Scott said. “I have felt the anger, the frustration, the sadness and the humiliation that comes with the feeling that you are being targeted for being nothing more than yourself.”