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The Senate’s only black Republican just got real on race

Of the 100 senators in office right now, two are black. In a remarkable moment of raw honesty on the Senate floor  Wednesday, one of those senators — GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina — said that even in the highest levels of governance, being black can still get you stopped by the police.

In a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Scott shared that when he comes to Washington, he's sometimes felt more like a suspect than a member of the nation's most exclusive club. He said he's been stopped by police seven times in one year.

Scott went on to criticize law enforcement in America that he indicated too often treats people differently because of the color of their skin. (We'll post a full video of the speech as soon as it becomes available.)

"We’re not going to sugarcoat the fact that there is a problem," Scott told the Post and Courier's Emma Dumain before the speech, part of a three-part series he delivered this week on race in America.

Scott is known as a quiet man on Capitol Hill, a lawmaker who prefers to put conservatism and his Christianity first, and his race second — if at all. He is the first black Republican elected to the South in more than a century, but his colleagues say you won't hear him talking about that.

But since coming to the Senate in 2015, Scott's been forced to. After a white man killed nine black people at church in Charleston, S.C., Scott fought back tears on the Senate floor.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) gets personal when talking about his experiences with law enforcement (Video: Tim Scott)

Back home, in the wake of police shootings around the nation, he's shared how he was stopped by police "numerous times" while a member of the Charleston County Council. In Washington, his colleagues in Congress have been with him when Capitol Hill Police officers stop to question him.

"He tells them, ‘I know I look young for a senator,’ " Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) told The New York Times's Jennifer Steinhauer last July.

This time, Scott isn't reluctantly addressing news events that revolve around race. He is deliberately drawing attention to them. The shift might have to do with how he's perceived his party's response in the wake of so much bloodshed between black men and police: lacking.

Scott told Dumain he was “surprised” more of his Republican colleagues didn't release statements after two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were killed by white police officers last week, while nearly all released statements on the murder of Dallas police officers.

Wednesday's speech was part of a three-part series Scott says he's delivering. On Thursday, Scott plans to give his third and final speech on race and law enforcement. Here's his first one, where he talked about the "heroism" of Dallas police officers:

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) spoke about law enforcement on the Senate floor, calling the Dallas police officers heroes. (Video: YouTube/Senator Tim Scott)