Tim Scott Face the Nation Aug 12 2018 (copy)

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., on Aug. 12, 2018 said President Donald Trump has taken steps that have helped "move us in a better direction" as a nation when it comes to race relations. Screenshot. CBS.

Tim Scott only said what many other people were already thinking.

Last week, the South Carolina senator wrote a commentary piece in which he argued the GOP can no longer remain silent on bigotry.

“Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism,” Scott wrote. “It is because of our silence when things like this are said.”

He was referring to comments Iowa congressman Steve King made to The New York Times. King said he didn’t understand why the term “white supremacist” was so offensive.

How about a reminder.

In October, a white man shot two elderly black people outside of a Louisville Kroger moments after trying to get into a black church. When a man attempted to stop him, he apparently said, “Whites don’t kill whites.”

All evidence to the contrary.

That’s just the latest example in a history replete with racism and racial violence — including the South Carolina black man lynched in 1898 simply because President William McKinley appointed him postmaster of Lake City.

There isn’t enough room in the entire newspaper to list all the examples since. Point is, there aren’t two sides to this debate. There’s right and then there’s wrong.

And the GOP needs to get on the right side, or it will go the way of the Confederacy.

Look away

The summer before last, white supremacists marched on Charlottesville, Virginia, proudly illuminating their repugnant beliefs by the light of tiki torches.

Before it was over, one of them killed a counter-protester for daring to question the notion of white supremacy.

As if they weren’t marching arguments to the contrary.

President Trump didn’t help matters when he claimed there were good people on both sides. It only fueled the beliefs of his critics, who contend Trump’s popularity is rooted in xenophobia and racial prejudice.

Sen. Scott met with the president afterward to explain exactly why that was the wrong thing to say.

Scott revealed the president’s response Friday on CNN.

“He said, ‘Tim, I don’t see what you see. What can I do to make things better?’” Scott told Van Jones.

That succinctly sums up the problem. Too many people have little understanding, and no empathy, for experiences different from their own.

It is evident every day. A Minnesota police officer pulled over Philando Castile in 2016 because he matched the description of a bank robber. Meaning he was black. When Castile was asked for his driver’s license, he was shot and killed ... for reaching for it.

But a Florence man can ambush police — killing two — and be taken alive. A person has to lack empathy to not see the difference.

Of course, the same people who say it’s time to “get over” slavery are often the same ones — like that Charlottesville mob — who will resort to violence over monuments to a government formed to protect slavery.

Selective outrage

To their credit, several Republicans have listened to Scott and condemned King’s remarks — including Sen. Lindsey Graham.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday stripped King of all his committee assignments. All of them.

That was the right move, but most are silent on the institutional racism that permeates every facet of society. It can be something as simple as calling the police on African Americans spotted at an apartment complex because they don’t look like they belong.

Or it can be, as Scott pointed out, white supremacists dragging a black man behind a pickup truck through Texas.

The party cannot go berserk when an illegal immigrant kills someone, as horrible as that is, and then remain silent when innocent black people are gunned down. That smacks of selective, and opportunistic, outrage.

Sen. Scott is about as conservative as they come. He has supported almost all of Trump’s agenda, but has gotten mild pushback for opposing two judicial nominees. Men, it should be noted, with troubling histories on racial issues.

The real question here is: Why didn’t anyone else in the party see those problems as disqualifying?

African Americans used to be reliable GOP voters. That is, until the Democrats embraced civil rights and the old Dixiecrats migrated to the Republican Party — and, by the 1990s, took over.

Republicans would do well to listen to Scott. If they don’t, or if this costs him support, that would be even worse than dooming the party to a future of irrelevance.

It would prove his point.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.