The personal is political

Posted 5/5/21

Sen. Tim Scott, R–S.C., has an impressive legislative track record. The only Black Republican in the Senate has crafted new laws to spur investment in low-income communities and change federal …

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The personal is political

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Sen. Tim Scott, R–S.C., has an impressive legislative track record. The only Black Republican in the Senate has crafted new laws to spur investment in low-income communities and change federal sentencing guidelines to allow for the early release of thousands of inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes.

Following President Joe Biden’s first address to Congress, Scott demonstrated his speaking prowess by delivering the Republican response. Listening to his speech, I was reminded of the feminist maxim: The personal is political.

Scott often tells his personal story for political purposes — how his family went “from cotton to Congress in one lifetime.” His personal experience of racism speaks to the political need for police reform. As a Black man, Scott fully acknowledged he knew of “the pain of discrimination.” He has experienced what it is like “to be pulled over for no reason” and “to be followed around a store while I’m shopping.”

Scott’s main criticism of our president was his administration’s lack of bipartisanship. This Republican senator claimed that Biden has not brought the country together, but the lack of cooperation between the two political parties certainly did not begin with this administration. It is counterproductive and futile to point fingers.

The question is, who is working together?

Scott is working with his colleague from across the aisle, Sen. Cory Booker, D–N.J., to negotiate a police reform bill. These two Black men have consensus over banning chokeholds and “no-knock” warrants that could have saved the lives of Eric Garner and Breonna Taylor.

Would any reform measure have saved the life of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City? Tragically, we will never know.

But I have read numerous reports that Scott and Booker are also considering the end of qualified immunity for police officers, which would make it easier to prosecute individuals who have violated a person’s rights. Last summer, President Donald Trump refused to make this concession, but Scott seems willing to support such a compromise. As was evident in the verdict against Derek Chauvin in Minnesota, individuals responsible for police brutality must be held accountable in a court of law.

But police violence is too prevalent to place the blame entirely upon certain bad apples. Scott has said that entire police departments should be held accountable. “There is a way to put more of the onus or the burden on the department or on the employer than on the employee,” he said. Entire departments should implement reforms from mandating body cameras to the types of training officers receive, Scott added.

I have a friend who has served in the Raleigh Police Department. He received only one day of training in nonviolent de-escalation techniques. Just as departments should not send officers out to protect without the right equipment, officers must be equipped to serve with the right education.

I agree with Scott’s claim that “the overwhelming number of officers in this nation are good people.” Men and women in blue should be open to honest efforts to create law enforcement policies that result in less violence and safer communities. Republicans and Democrats should support these reforms.

When asked about Scott, Booker replied, “I appreciate that he’s an honest broker.” The personal is political — relationships of mutual respect can lead to legislation. Let’s hope Scott and Booker can broker an honest deal for police reform.

Lives are at stake.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His forthcoming book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”


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