Sen. Tim Scott on race, police reform, and why ending qualified immunity is a nonstarter for the GOP

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican serving in the US Senate, has an additional, unenviable task beyond his usual legislative portfolio: talking to his colleagues, and Republicans in general, about the issues of race and policing with which he has an intimate familiarity.

“I, like many other Black Americans, have found myself choking on my own fears and disbelief when faced with the realities of an encounter with law enforcement,” he wrote in an op-ed in USA Today earlier this year, detailing experiences that began when he was 21 and have continued into his time in Congress.

Amid the protests over the police killing of George Floyd, he delivered a similar message on the Senate floor, describing a year in which he was stopped by the police seven times. “Just because you do not feel the pain, the anguish of another, does not mean it does not exist,” he told his colleagues.

Scott also led the Republican legislative response to Floyd’s death: the JUSTICE Act, the Senate Republican bill meant to address the crisis. The bill, which focused on data collection and called for examining what at-risk communities need most, was blocked by Senate Democrats, who argued it didn’t go far enough.

Scott is one of the most interesting people in politics: the first Black senator elected from a Southern state since 1881, the only Black American to have served in both chambers of Congress. There are only two Black Republicans in Congress — Scott and Rep. Will Hurd — and only three Black senators of either party.

Sen. Scott and I talked about police reform, qualified immunity for officers and why eliminating it is a “poison pill” for Republicans, race and racism, and our own family experiences of bad policing. He told me Floyd’s death had launched a “tectonic shift on the underlying issue” of police brutality.

“I hope that we don’t miss this opportunity” to address it, he said.

Full article and transcript here.