WASHINGTON ― Tim Scott, the black Republican senator who captivated Washington this week with stories of his own recent mistreatment by police, followed up Thursday with a talk about his family members, and their journey from the cotton fields in South Carolina to the United States Congress.
Scott took to the Senate floor for a third time this week to discuss the nation’s tumultuous feelings after a gunman left five police officers dead in Dallas, and police shot and killed Alton Sterling outside a convenience store in Louisiana, and Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Minnesota.
“This has been a very emotional 10 days for all of us, and I believe a pivotal time for the future of our nation,” Scott said.
Scott, one of two black senators, spoke about his grandfather, who was born in 1921 in Salley, South Carolina, and died this year.
“He was 94 years old and meant so much to me,” Scott said. “I can only imagine the life, the challenges, and the struggles of an African-American in the deep South, in 1921, 1931, and the 1940s.”
Scott’s grandfather didn’t finish elementary school. “He had to pick cotton,” Scott said.
Later, his grandfather got job in Port Charleston, providing a “measurable lifeline” for Scott’s family.
His family’s story, Scott continued, is like others he’s heard, pointing to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) ― the son of Cuban immigrants.
“It’s the story of America,” Scott said. “My grandfather’s grandson, and yours truly as a United States senator, my brother, another grandson, rose to the rank of command sergeant major in the United States Army.
“That’s the beauty of America,” he continued. ”From cotton to Congress in one lifetime.”
Scott pressed Congress to pursue legislation that would provide better tracking of data on fatal police shootings, and to provide more resources for police departments to equip their officers with body cameras. Additionally, he’s is floating a separate idea with Sen. Jim Lankford (R-Okla.) called “Solution Sunday,” encouraging people to converse.
Lankford said he, like other Senate colleagues, was moved by Scott’s speech and it got him thinking about how to bring people together. He issued “a simple challenge” to anyone watching on CSPAN on Thursday.
“If we’re going to have a conversation about race, maybe the conversations should start with each of our families over the dinner table,” Lankford said. “If you’re going to be part of the solution in America, maybe on Sunday for lunch or dinner, invite a family over of another race, just to sit and have a conversation. Everybody can put their feet under the same table and develop a friendship and relationship. Every person can do that.”
Jennifer Bendery contributed reporting.