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Lamar Alexander: Changing Discrimination Requires Changing Behavior, Not Just Laws

U.S. SenateWashington, D.C. – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that changing attitudes toward racial discrimination is “not as easy as passing new laws. It will require a change in behavior.”      

“United States Senator Tim Scott, who is an African American Republican from South Carolina, once told our Bible study that police in his hometown stopped him several times for being ‘a black man in the wrong place’ – even though at the time he was serving as chairman of the Charleston County Council,” Senator Alexander said in a speech on the Senate floor.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander

“During these last few days, I have been thinking a lot about what Tim told us. And I wondered, how many white Americans know that things like that happen, white Americans like me. And I wondered how I would feel if I were stopped for being ‘a white man in the wrong place’ in my home town, especially if most of the people in town were black? Would I feel hurt? Scared? Disillusioned? Angry? Weary? Disappointed? Intimidated? Probably all of those things. One result of George Floyd’s killing is that black Americans are telling more stories like Tim Scott’s,” stated Senator Alexander.

Senator Alexander continued, “A professor of religious studies in Nashville wrote in the Tennessean that he carries a licensed firearm with him when he goes on a run. …Well-educated black businessmen count the times they have been profiled because of their race. One of my friends in Memphis, who is now vice president of one of Memphis’ largest hospitals, told me that when he went to Memphis State in the 1960’s, it was clear to him that almost everyone thought that he didn’t belong there.

“So, what do we do now? Bringing those who killed George Floyd to justice will help. Dealing firmly with looters who hijack peaceful protests will help. Some new laws and government actions will help, such as criminal justice reform and permanent funding for historically black colleges and universities, both which became law in this Congress. It would also help to open schools and colleges in August and to open them safely because a good education is the surest ticket to a better future for minority students, and those students will suffer more from schools being closed.

“Benjamin Hooks, the former NAACP president from Memphis, said that ‘America is a work in progress. We’ve come a long way, and we have a long way to go.’ That long way to go will not be as easy as passing laws. It will take changing behavior. One way to do that could be last week’s peaceful protest organized by Nashville teenagers, which was a textbook example of First Amendment citizenship. And it hopefully will encourage more victims of racism to tell their stories and more Americans to adjust our attitudes.”

Senator Alexander concluded, “I am glad that Tim Scott gave me permission to tell his story. And perhaps a good first step to changing attitudes toward racial discrimination would be for each of us who are white to ask ourselves this question: How would I feel if police in my hometown repeatedly stopped me for being a white man or a white woman in the wrong place, especially if most of the people in the town were black?”

Click Here for Senator Lamar Alexander’s full remarks.


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