A Black Republican Talks About Driving While Black


When the Supreme Court was considering an affirmative action case in 2003, both Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell broke with George Bush and announced their support for taking race into account in college admissions. “I wish it was possible for everything to be race-neutral in this country,” Powell said, “but I’m afraid we’re not yet at that point where things are race-neutral.”

In 2009, when Congress voted on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Republicans voted almost unanimously against it—with the exception of all four Republican women in the Senate, who broke with their party to support its initial passage.

Yesterday, the Senate’s only black Republican told his white GOP colleagues that police officers aren’t quite the racial paragons they like to think they are:

He described several encounters with police, including one where he was stopped because the officer suspected his car was stolen. He described a similar incident that happened to his brother, a command sergeant major in the U.S. Army. And he told the story of a staffer who was “pulled over so many times here in D.C. for absolutely no reason other than driving a nice car.” The staffer eventually traded in his Chrysler for a “more obscure form of transportation” because “he was tired of being targeted.”

“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,” he said.

He asked his Senate colleagues to “imagine the frustration, the irritation, the sense of a loss of dignity that accompanies each of those stops.”
Scott also described walking into an office building on Capitol Hill and having an officer ask him to show his ID even though he wore a Senate pin.

A white friend writes to say much the same thing:

For about a year and a half, I lived in a northwest Atlanta neighborhood that, aside from me, was pretty much all black. Just across the river was Smyrna in Cobb County, where everyone is pretty much all white.

I’m 56 and I’ve been stopped for license checks 12 times in my life. Once was in high school. The other 11 were when I lived there, and every single one was the Smyrna cops sitting at the end of that bridge. Being white, I got a smile and a wave. The drug sniffing dog was for everyone else.

It is pretty hard to mistake that message: “Weer keepin ar eyes on yew boys!” That constant low level surveillance only of people who don’t look like you makes it difficult to believe that most cops are all that conscientious.

Conservatives take note. Just because you don’t notice this stuff yourself doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Even your own colleagues say so.