WASHINGTON — As the debate over Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-Ala.) nomination wound down, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) read on the Senate floor some of the cruel tweets and messages he’d received for his support of the new attorney general’s nomination.
Scott used his floor time Wednesday for a broader conversation about race in America, as well.
“John Lewis is an American hero,” the senator said of the Georgia Democratic representative. “I know that this may or may not be popular with everyone in the chamber or everyone in America on the conservative side or the liberal side, but the reality of it is simply this: He was beaten within an inch of his life so that I would have the privilege not to stand in the chamber, but to vote, to simply vote.”
“We should all thank God for the sacrifices of men and women so that people like myself and Cory Booker and Kamala Harris would be allowed one day not to simply vote, but to serve in the most unique, powerful and one of the most important legislative bodies in the world today,” he said of his New Jersey and California Senate colleagues. “It is sacrifices of men and women of color who fought against injustices. I stand, we stand as a nation on the shoulders of these giants.”
“And I know that I don’t have to remind my mother or my family, but just as a reminder to those who are listening to the conversation that when I leave the United States Senate one day, I’m still going to be black, an African-American. Black every day, black every way, and there’s no doubt.”
Scott spoke of his grandfather telling him “his experiences of having to step off of a sidewalk when white folks were coming,” a history of “separation, segregation, humiliation and challenges.”
“I’ve been called everything that you can think of from a racial perspective. Good, not too often. Bad, very consistently. So I understand that there is room for progress. There is a need for us to crystallize what we’re fighting about, who we’re fighting for, and how we’re going to get there,” he said.
The senator had arranged a meeting with Sessions and African-American pastors in Charleston “to see from a distance how he interacts” with the community “and hear the tough questions on Walter Scott and other issues.” The NAACP and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network called the meeting “outrageous.” Scott noted he “invited two of their leaders” without an indication that Sessions was coming, but “they decided not to show up.”
“If you sign up to be a black conservative, the chances are very high you will be attacked. It comes with the territory. And I’ve had it for 20 years, two decades,” he said. “But my friends and my staff, they’re not used to the level of animus that comes in from the liberal left that suggests that I somehow are not helpful to the cause of liberal America, and therefore I am not helpful to black America. Because they see those as one in the same.”
The senator read a handful of tweets calling him “a white man in a black body,” a “disgrace to the black race,” an “Uncle Tom,” and a “house Negro like the one in Django.”
“I left out all the ones that used the ‘N’ word. Just felt like that would not be appropriate,” he said.
Scott said “the liberal left that speaks and desires for all of us to be tolerant — all of us to be tolerant — do not want to be tolerant of anyone that disagrees with where they are coming from.”
“So the definition of tolerance isn’t that all Americans experience a high level of tolerance. It’s that all Americans that agree with them experiences this so-called tolerance,” he continued. “I’m not saying this because it bothers me because frankly as I said, two decades of this, you don’t necessarily get used to it but you don’t find yourself as offended by it all.”
“I just wish that my friends who call themselves liberals would want tolerance for all Americans, including conservative Americans. I just wish that my liberal friends who are self-described liberal would want to be innocent until proven guilty and not guilty until proven innocent.”