These last two weeks have been gut wrenching for America. A friend of mine posted on Facebook that it feels like flags will be at half staff forever.
It started with two separate and unrelated police shootings. White cops shot and killed black men. One was in Louisiana and the other was in Minnesota. I've been told that by being silent about the atrocities of these police shootings, that I am part of the problem. I disagree. It's ok to wait to learn the facts before you react. If you're becoming outraged without knowing the full truth, then you're just contributing to the panic.
Just as the cycle of outrage was just beginning (the same cycle we saw play out in Fergusson and Baltimore) more violence broke out. This time, it wasn't the rioting as we saw the last two summers. This time, it was an ambush by a lone black man killing as many white cops as possible. It then happened again. Another black man in another American city shot and killed police officers simply because they were police officers.
I'm not going to spend time talking about the things you've already heard. I won't talk about what president Barack Obama said at the funerals for the five fallen Dallas officers. Im not going to compare and contrast his speech with the words given by former President George W. Bush at the same venue. Im not going to talk about the criminal history of the two men killed in those two separate police shootings or at the fact that both had guns and shouldn't have had guns. You've heard all that, and my talking about those things today won't move this conversation forward. Instead, I'm going to talk about something you heard a little about, but didn't get the full story. The fact that you didn't hear the full story is part of the problem in America today. I'm going to tell you that full story today because by doing so, you'll actually hear what the solution to our national race problem is. You need to hear this. All of us do.
Tim Scott is a Senator from South Carolina. He's a Republican. That's not unusual. Most senators from the South are Republicans. What is unusual is that senator Scott is black. He's one of only two black senators. The other is Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey. So, being a black, Republican Senator from South Carolina makes Scott a unique figure in modern American politics. It also means that when he talks about race, he can grab some pretty big headlines. That's what happened on Thursday last week. Senator Scott stood up on the floor of the senate and talked about how he had been racially profiled by Capital Hill Police.
You can't recognize one of the two black senators and you work in the Capital Police? Wow.
Tim Scott's words grabbed headlines. It was all over the web. Black Republican Admits There's Racism. It was all over the place, and for good reason. This is part of the conversation we need to be having. The Senator shared stories about how he had been pulled over seven times in one year. He talked about how police officers pulled him over on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle. They did this before they ever ran the plates of his car. If they had run the plates ahead of time, they would have known Scott was the owner of that car. For 16 minutes, he shared those stories and stories from members of his staff, successful, intelligent, honorable Americans who were confused for potential criminals because of the color of their skin. Here's one of the quotes that was widely shared in the media.
What wasn't covered was that this speech wasn't done in isolation. Listen to what Senator Scott had said on the floor of the senate a few days earlier.
Did you catch that? He said he would give a series of speeches. The speech talking about the negative run-ins he's had with law enforcement, the speech that got so much coverage, was actually the second speech of three. You didn't hear about the first or the third speech, did you? Those two speeches didn't garner the same level of attention. The only place I found them was Senator Scott's own website! So, before he spent 16 minutes talking about his personal experiences with race, he spent 16 minutes talking about how wonderful our nation's police officers actually are. He spent 16 minutes detailing specific instances of bravery and tolerance in the face of hatred and opposition. He spent 16 minutes saying things like this.
You never heard him say that because the media decided it wasn't news. A Republican saying that he supports law and order isn't news because it isn't new. A black Republican admitting that racial profiling exists and is humiliating on a personal level is. That part of the problem. The fact that the second speech got all the attention and the first speech was ignored leads to more division in America, not less.
The individual men and women who are in leadership positions in our nation's media let us all down in the way they decided to cover this story. They decided the second speech was newsworthy and the first speech wasn't when, in reality, they were two sides of the same conversation. That is part of the problem.
Senator Scott finished his second speech by telling us what was to come in the third speech. He ended the newsworthy address by teasing the talk that was coming next. Even though the media covered the second speech, they didn't bite on the tease. They completely ignored the third speech and it is the third speech that was most important. Why was it the most important part of the series? Because in it, Senator Scott, the Black Republican from South Carolina talked about solutions. The man who spent 16 minutes praising police followed by 16 minutes empathizing with and expressing the outrage of the protestors spent the next 24 minutes telling us how we can solve the problem.
Some of the solutions he mentioned dealt with government policies; jobs in the inner cities, better education, and funding for body cameras for police. But, for Senator Scott, the most important solutions weren't going to come from Washington. They would come from us as individuals.
These solutions aren't done by a new law or federal mandate. They are accomplished individually - one person looking into the eyes of another person. It's not just about community policing, but about police officers being a part of their community. It's not done by saying, "black lives matter," or, "all lives matter." It's done by saying, "I matter and you matter."
This isn't a new idea. It's actually found in our Declaration of Independence written by a slave owner over two hundred years ago. We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. You matter just as much as I matter. It's not new. But, just because this idea isn't new, doesn't mean it's not newsworthy. Sometimes we need to be reminded of ancient truths. Just because it's not new doesn't mean it's not important. It doesn't mean it can't change the world one person at a time.
Shame on the media for not covering the entire three speeches given by Senator Scott. Shame on each one of us if we don't listen to what he was trying to tell us.