GOP senator delivers trio of powerful speeches on race
Race Issues | Tim Scott shares his solutions to racial strife, urges families to sit down over dinner to hear each other’s experiences
by Evan Wilt
Posted 7/14/16, 05:50 pm
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate’s only black Republican said today that ending racial discord starts with breaking bread together.
“I have experienced what’s possible when the family talks,” Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said Thursday. “I think this is incredibly important that while our problems appear in black and white, our solutions are black and white.”
Today marked Scott’s third speech this week in response to the multiple racially charged shootings across the nation, including the killing of five Dallas police officers. In his final address, Scott said while the government can do more, ultimately it cannot force Americans to resolve their differences. He said ending racial strife in America has no simple solution, but listening to one another is a good start.
On Monday, Scott spoke on the importance of supporting police officers during this time. And on Wednesday night, Scott shared his own encounters with police in a deeply personal account of how he’s been profiled because of the color of his skin, even as a U.S. senator.
Scott revealed law enforcement officers have pulled him over seven times during the span of one year as an elected member of Congress: “Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. 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 later told of a time when a U.S. Capitol Police officer stopped him, assuming Scott was impersonating a member of Congress. Scott said a guard told him, “The pin, I know. You, I don’t. Show me your ID.”
“Later that evening, I received a phone call from his supervisor apologizing for that behavior,” Scott said. “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 added he does not know many African-American men who do not have a similar story to tell, regardless of income level or profession.
His speeches stem from the recent police killings of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, both caught on video. During a peaceful protest in Dallas the following week, a gunman opened fire on police, killing five officers and wounding seven others. The shooter also wounded two civilians.
Scott’s colleagues praised his messages.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told me today that Scott is an outstanding speaker: “We’ve all been listening.”
McConnell’s counterpart agreed. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., remarked after Scott’s speech today that he is tremendously impressed with his positive outlook despite troubling experiences, and praised his empathy as Americans grieve.
Scott proposed several ideas to help restore the trust between the African-American community and police officers. He said more officers need to wear body cameras so the American people can see the whole story. But he also advocated a police shooting tracking system and said officers need better de-escalation training.
But Scott said real healing starts when families join together over a meal to have hard conversations.
“I’ll continue to reach out to all my colleagues and my friends who may not look like me, who may have a different philosophy than I do, so that I can understand their hopes, their dreams, and their frustrations,” Scott said. “Because listening is important and as we look around at our nation, it appears to me that we haven’t done nearly enough listening to each other.”
One of Scott’s best friends in the Senate, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told me today he’s been asking people all week if their family has ever had a family of a different race over to their house for dinner: “I was shocked by how many said no.”
Together, Scott and Lankford are issuing a new challenge they call “Sunday Solutions,” asking families of different races to share a meal together and hear each other’s stories.
“We need one family from one race with another family from another race together. Not at a restaurant, but at somebody’s house having conversations around the dinner table,” Lankford told me. “That’s where we start to make repairs.”
Evan is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD reporter.