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Driving while black: GOP Sen. Tim Scott tells of his experiences

I don’t know how many skeptics still doubt that the phenomenon of being pulled over by a police officer for “driving while black” is a real thing. Any skepticism I had was wiped out long ago by the testimony of friends and neighbors who experienced it, frequently, and when they were doing nothing wrong. The report that Philando Castile had been stopped 52 times since 2002 is consistent with the pattern.

Perhaps some skeptics wonder about the frequency of such stops, especially since – even if no citation is issued – what is the evidence that a particular driver may have been driving in ways that would justify the stop. (And, of course, not every such stop is racially motivated.)

But skeptics might be impressed with the recent testimony, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. Scott is one of two black members of the current Senate. And, in case this makes him more credible on a such a matter, he is a Republican.

Scott took to the Senate floor Wednesday and, in an 18-minute statement, disclosed that he has been pulled over by police seven times in the past year. Twice, he said, he was driving too fast (although plenty of people get away with that without being stopped). The other five times he was doing nothing other than driving while black.

Scott asked his fellow senators to “imagine the frustration, the irritation the sense of a loss of dignity that accompanies each of those stops.”

In the majority of the cases, Scott said, “I was doing nothing more than driving a new car, in the wrong neighborhood, or some other reason just as trivial.”

“I have felt the anger, the frustration, the sadness and the humiliation that comes with feeling that you’re being targeted for nothing more than just being yourself,” he said.

This link will get you video of 10 minutes of excerpts from Scott’s floor statement, as published by the liberal Think Progress organization. It’s impressive.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/14/2016 - 02:03 pm.

    It’s real

    Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional, or deliberately ignoring the facts.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/14/2016 - 04:34 pm.

    Head in the sand

    Sadly, there are people that I know, locally and elsewhere, who would not accept the Senator’s statements at face value, and would argue that there “must have been” some legitimate reason for his being pulled over. Quite a bit of the commentary I encountered on Facebook in regard to Philando Castile’s death (I’m inclined to call it “murder,” or “manslaughter” at the very least, but the trial – if there is one – has yet to be held) was of this variety. The assumption was that the number of times Castile had been pulled over indicated consistent flaws in his driving, rather than any form of harassment or implicit racism on the part of the police. A phrase that comes readily to mind in this context is “willful ignorance.” None are so blind as those who do not wish to see…

    Perhaps the most surprising thing about Senator Scott is that he’s a Republican – a member of the party which has consistently and publicly worked against the interests of the vast majority of people of color for at least a generation. I’d say that’s a pretty powerful testament to the power of ideology in itself – well, that, or a case study in cognitive dissonance…

    • Submitted by Tim Walker on 07/15/2016 - 09:36 am.

      Willful vs. belligerent ignorance


      Like you, I’ve used the term “willful ignorance” before, but more and more lately I’ve been saying “belligerent ignorance” because that seems to better describe the phenomenon.

  3. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 07/14/2016 - 05:45 pm.

    Where are the usual cast of commentators?

    In response to the Senator’s comments. Ah yes the conservative bs.

  4. Submitted by joe smith on 07/14/2016 - 08:54 pm.

    To be pulled over for speeding is fine

    being pulled over for nothing is wrong. That is plain and simple. I am a fan of the police and support them for protecting us all daily but to pull over folks for the color of their skin is wrong. Every time a car is stopped I know the police have to call in the stop to check the license, there will be a record of that stop. Should be easy to check all stops and put an end to this unfair practice.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/15/2016 - 08:27 am.

      Then there’s “Walking while black”

      You might find this article interesting:

      This stuff IS going on.

      It’s high time we acknowledge it.

      Because the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging it.

      It doesn’t necessarily make those who are part of the problem “bad” or “evil”.

      But it DOES place upon them a responsibility to own up to their actions, and begin to do the hard work of self improvement.

      And it WILL be hard work.

      But it has to start somewhere.

      Mostly, it just has to start.

  5. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 07/15/2016 - 09:09 am.

    Just a suggestion

    …. to red or yellow black or white,iIf you don’t believe what’s been happening for some time:

    …add a BLACK LIVES MATTER bumper sticker on your bumper and drive through a mostly white suburb…good luck, hey, but wear a flack vest and a body camera and listen for the sirens and a pull-over…

    Call it a skin game but not so fun to play, for nobody wins here and its not a very nice game to play in a free country…wake up and see where we have come and been going on for some time.

  6. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 07/15/2016 - 09:50 am.


    One of the items in today’s glean links to this MPR story referencing a 2003 study by the Council on Crime and Justice and the Institute on Race and Poverty commissioned by the Minnesota legislature to gather and analyze traffic stop data on possible racial profiling. The article says:

    “The 2003 report — the most recent, comprehensive, statewide review — showed blacks and Latinos were stopped at a far higher rate than whites and searched at a far higher rate. Yet, they were found in possession of drugs at a far lower rate.”

    The data was there and analyzed, yet even this study wasn’t enough to convince state public safety officials that “the data proved conclusively that law enforcement agents were targeting African-Americans and other minorities.”

    That’s probably still true but what study can ever show “conclusively” that law enforcement agents are “targeting” African-Americans and other minorities? “Targeting” implies deliberate intent and de facto official policy of something that is, last time I checked, against the law of the land. No one is ever going to admit that racial targeting is official policy or that the stats. show this.

    More likely is that the statistics reveal evidence of what many in the African-American community have been saying for some time, namely that there is a thing called “institutional racial bias” that mirrors deeply held racism in our society and American culture.

    But another culprit is the doctrine of Terry v. Ohio that authorizes warrants police seizures and searches without probable cause. Justice William O. Douglas, the only dissenter in Terry v. Ohio presciently warned that “to give the police greater power than a magistrate is to take a long step down the totalitarian path.” The 2003 study does show us that African-Americans and other minorities are subjected to police actions to a degree and extent that white people would find unacceptable and objectionable. I would suggest that Justice Douglas’s prophesy has become largely true for African-Americans and minorities in this country. Only our white privilege prevents the rest of us from experiencing what living in a police state is really like or understanding how it feels.

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