U.S. Sen. Tim Scott waited until the last two minutes of his 20-minute speech at the Charleston County GOP Black History banquet Friday night to condemn the latest racial scandal to rock American politics, this time in Virginia.

"There are some things that have been buried in the soil for so long, it's going to spring up," Scott told more than 300 attendees at The Citadel’s Holliday Alumni Center.

"So we've got to deal with those issues," Scott, R-S.C., said. "These are not Republican issues. They're not Democrat issues.  They're issues of the human heart, and we've got to figure that out."

For Scott, the sole black Republican U.S. senator, talking about yet another racial issue in America was a bit like unwanted déjà vu.

In the past year alone he has voted down two high-profile judicial nominees due to what he viewed as "questionable track records on race." In a Washington Post op-ed, he urged his Republican colleagues to stop putting such nominees forward and called on the GOP to do better on issues of race.

Scott also met one-on-one with President Donald Trump after the president cast blame on both sides following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

Now, after two separate incidents involving racist photos emerged in recent days linking Virginia's Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring to blackface, Scott found himself urging politicians to tackle racial issues.

He said Virginia should look to South Carolina's unified response after the 2015 shooting at Charleston's Mother Emanuel AME Church, where nine black parishioners were gunned down by a self-avowed white supremacist.

"I don’t want to denigrate the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. I just think that they have to address an obvious looming concern and they have not so far," Scott said.

He later added, "We are not perfect, but we are willing to have constructive conversations that change the trajectory and the course of history for us."

Scott's comments punctuated what has been a week of talking openly about racial issues and his prominent role in addressing them on the national stage.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Tuesday, Scott spoke about how he has become more comfortable talking about matters of race.

While hosting leaders from historically black colleges and universities in Washington on Wednesday, Scott praised their importance in communities of color and in the larger moral fabric. 

But Scott also reiterated in his interview he does not want to be known as "the black senator" or "the black Republican." 

Sign up for updates!

Get the latest political news from The Post and Courier in your inbox.


When Maurice Washington, the first vice-chair of the Charleston County Republican Party and who is also black, introduced Scott, he did not mention Scott's race.

"We all know him as Tim," Washington said. "We know him as an outspoken person in Washington on race relations in America, on hope and opportunity for all, and as a person who fights dearly to improve the lives of not just folks in South Carolina but all of America."

Scott replaced Housing Secretary Dr. Ben Carson on Friday night as the keynote speaker when Carson had to suddenly cancel his scheduled appearance last week.

Scott's comments earned him a standing ovation from the room, which included Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette and former U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford.

As Scott walked out of the building, he acknowledged this will likely not be the last time he finds himself speaking out about issues of race in America even though he would rather talk about other things, like tax reform or the booming economy.

"I’m no longer reluctant, but it is more of a responsibility than a desired effect," Scott said.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.

We're improving out commenting experience.

We’ve temporarily removed comments from articles while we work on a new and better commenting experience. In the meantime, subscribers are encouraged to join the conversation at our Post and Courier Subscribers group on Facebook.