South Carolina Senator Tim Scott spoke movingly today about his experiences being racially profiled over the years in a speech he gave on the Senate floor.
Because I shuddered when I heard Eric Garner say, “I can’t breathe”.
I wept, when I watched Walter Scott turn and run away and get shot and killed from the back.
I broke, when I heard the four year old daughter of Philando Castile’s girlfriend tell her mother, “It’s ok, I’m right here with you.”
These are people lost forever. Fathers, brothers, sons.
He went on to push back on the idea that because they had criminal records, they were somehow lesser people, and he described his own experience in moving terms.
Driving while Black:
But instead of sharing experience after experience, I want to go to a time in my life when I was an elected official and share just a couple of stories as an elected official. But please remember that 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.
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.
Being Black on Capitol Hill:
Even here on Capitol Hill, where I’ve had the great privilege of serving the great people of South Carolina as a United States Congress member and as a United States Senator for the last six years.
For those who don’t know, there are a few ways to identify a member of Congress or Senate. Well, typically when you’ve been here for a couple of years, the law enforcement officers get to know your face and they just identify you by face. But if that doesn’t happen, you have a badge or your license that you can show them, that shows you’re a Senator. Or, this really cool pin. I often times say that the House pins are larger because our egos are bigger, so we need a smaller pin. So it’s easy to identify a U.S. Senator by our pin.
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 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.
These are the kinds of painful conversations we're going to have to have to make progress. It doesn't matter that Senator Scott is a Republican. I may not like his politics or agree with anything he has to say, but his experience is authentic, it is real, and it is shared. Until we -- and media and the pundits -- can begin to actually empathize with these experiences, we can't make progress.
I applaud Senator Scott for beginning the dialogue.