South Carolina's Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, walked into a Capitol Hill building after five years in office, wearing the pin that marked him as a senator.
“The officer looked at me with a little attitude and said, ‘The pin, I know. You, I don’t. Show me your ID,'” Scott recalled.
Scott shared the incident with his colleagues on the Senate floor Wednesday to explain the sometimes-fraught relationship between African Americans and law enforcement.
Scott says he received an apologetic call from a supervisor that night, the third time he's received such a call since entering the Senate in 2013.
In one year, he said he has been stopped seven times by law enforcement officers. But, the senator made clear that these issues should not lead anyone to conclusions other than to abide by the laws.
“Was I speeding sometimes? Sure, but the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some other reason just as trivial,” Scott said.
Scott spoke about a time he was leaving the mall. A police officer followed him and after four turns, he entered his apartment complex.
“The officer approached the car and said I did not use my turn signal on the fourth turn,” he recalled. “Keep in my mind, as you might imagine, I was paying very close attention to the law enforcement officer who followed me. Do you really think that somehow I forgot to use my turn signal on that fourth turn?”
Another time, an officer pulled the senator over and suggested the car was stolen.
He also told stories of similar experiences of his brother, who is a command sergeant major in the U.S. Army, and a former staffer.
“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,” he said.
He recalled the first time he was pulled over and how he felt “embarrassed, ashamed and scared. Very scared.”
Scott began a three-part series of speeches following the events of last week when two African-American men were killed by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, and another shot and killed five Dallas police officers in apparent revenge.
Scott said this speech was the most difficult and the most personal. “It’s time for this American family to have a serious conversation about where we are, where we’re going and how to get there," he said.
California Democrat Barbara Boxer followed him on the floor, and before starting her speech, she praised Scott.
“May I say to my colleague how much I appreciate his frank discussion today. We are so blessed to have you and [New Jersey Democrat] Cory Booker here. We don’t have enough diversity here, let me be clear,” Boxer said.