Sen. Tim Scott, who delivered the Republican response to President Biden’s address to Congress, said Sunday that “America is not a racist country,” and as both sides of the aisle negotiate police reform at the federal level on Capitol Hill, the goal “isn’t for Republicans or Democrats to win, but for communities to feel safer and our officers to feel respected.”
Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, also contended on an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that “fighting bigotry with bigotry is hypocrisy,” as Biden last week called on Congress to pass a police reform bill by the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death, May 25. Scott was the subject of attacks from the left over his rebuttal to the address.
“I personally understand the pain of being stopped 18 times driving while Black,” Scott said, arguing he brings an “equilibrium” to the conversation. “I also have seen the beauty of when officers go door to door with me on Christmas morning delivering presents to kids in the most underserved communities.”
“America is not a racist country,” he affirmed, arguing that Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and one of the leaders in the House Democrat caucus, Rep. Jim Clyburn, from South Carolina, also agreed.
“The question is, ‘Is there a lingering effect after a couple of centuries of racism and discrimination in this nation?’ The answer is absolutely,” the senator continued. “The question we should be debating and fighting over is how do we resolve those issues going forward? One side says I’m going to take from some to give to others. Fighting bigotry with bigotry is hypocrisy.”
Scott, who first offered proposals on police reform last summer, said he is more hopeful change can occur this time because now he believes the left is not looking for an issue, instead for a solution.
“If we remember, the goal isn’t for Republicans or Democrats to win, but for communities to feel safer and our officers to feel respected,” Scott told host John Dickerson. “If we can accomplish those two major goals, the rest will be history.”
He pointed to what the two bills have in common on data collection and said Democrats and Republicans have come closer through negotiations and conversations on no knock warrants and chokeholds. Scott said another issue under discussion is Section 1033, which has to do with getting government equipment from the military for local police.
The Republican said he also has Democratic support on the issue of qualified immunity after proposing that civil lawsuits can sue police departments, instead of individual officers.
“But the real question is how do we change the culture of policing? I think we do that by making the employer responsible for the actions of the employee. We do that with doctors. We do that with lawyers. We do that at all most all of our industries,” Scott said. “And if we do that in law enforcement, the employer will change the culture. So as opposed to having one officer change or not change, we’ll have all officers transforming because the departments are taking on more of that burden.”
“As I spoke with the family members on Thursday, they were very receptive to that proposal because what they’re looking for is something that shows progress,” Scott added, referring to his closed door meeting on Capitol Hill with civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Bakari Sellers and the family members of Black people killed by police in a few high-profile cases.
Those relatives included: Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd; Alissa Finley, the sister of Botham Jean; Tiffany Crutcher, the sister of Terence Crutcher; and Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner.
Scott said the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder and manslaughter of Floyd, as well as the conviction of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager in the 2015 shooting death of Walter Scott during a traffic stop, show promise for change.
The senator said Republicans have also led the fight in securing the highest level of funding for historically Black colleges to level the playing field in education, in health care by addressing sickle cell anemia and for opportunity zones in order to bring resources into poor communities.
“We’ll see what we have seen, which is the unemployment rates hitting all-time lows for African-Americans, Hispanics, 70 year low for women,” he said. “Those things actually matter.”