Six Quotes from Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy’s “Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country”


A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a local library and picked up this book to kill some time. I ended up reading it all, and then buying it for my church’s library. It’s a book about friendship, politics, and race relations, written by two conservative statesmen, one black and one white. Both hail from South Carolina, the birthplace of the Civil War. Their names are Senator Tim Scott and Representative Trey Gowdy.

As a white conservative Republican, I naturally found much of it confirming of my own beliefs and hunches. At the same time, I also found some of it quite challenging. Reading Trey Gowdy’s discussion of crack cocaine sentencing or phrases like “law and order,” I was painfully aware that when I read Thabiti Anyabwile saying almost exactly the same thing, I tend to dismiss it without a fair hearing.  In short, I felt myself rebuked, and I hope I can walk away from this book a better listener and thinker on the subject of race relations.


Senator Tim Scott: 
The truth is, if you’re in politics and you’re impervious to pain, you probably should get out. I never want to get to the point where the attacks don’t hurt anymore. I want my nerve endings connected and functioning. It’s a dangerous person who no longer feels the pain. It might be expedient in a political world that’s all about process, but it’s hazardous for a person’s character. (78)


Representative Trey Gowdy:
…when a writer in South Carolina wrote a gratuitously nasty blog post about Tim, I was infuriated…So I hurried down the stairs, walked past his receptionist, and went straight into his office. “Have you read this?” I said. I can’t recall now if he had, but it didn’t take long to brief him on the content. I said, “I’m sick of this. It’s time to do something about it. It’s difficult for a public official to seek legal redress over defamation, but something must be done.”

“You’re right, he said. “Please close the door and have a seat.”

I thought, Now we’re making some progress. I finally got Tim Scott fired up enough to respond.  I closed the door, and Tim said, “We’re going to pray for this person.”

“No I’m not,” I said. I don’t typically pray out loud anyway, and I certainly wasn’t about to start then. “You can, but I’m not.” You have to be pretty angry to refuse to pray with someone. But I wanted action, not prayer.

Tim shrugged and said, “Well, will you sit with me while I pray?”

So I sat with him. And I listened as he prayed for someone who had written words that were intentionally calculated to be hurtful…

Tim is the one who lives out his faith, who literally prays for his enemies…I’m a little more like Peter, the disciple of Jesus who was quick to pull out his sword and fight—the guy who took off another guy’s ear, but only because he missed his neck. (184-185)


Senator Tim Scott:
My mother, Frances, had a proverbial master’s degree in the science of discipline, and my grandmother had a full PhD. My brother and I grew up with a firm understanding of what I call the psychology of the switch: the task of going out to the tree to choose your own instrument of punishment. (You might think a larger switch would be more painful, but the truth is, the smaller switch  moves faster and hurts more. Believe me, I’m an expert.) Today, people might frown on her style of discipline, but I’m forever thankful that my mother and grandmother cared enough to discipline me.

I believe the real child abuse, however, is allowing your kid to grow up on his own and follow his own authority until he ends up incarcerated. Real child abuse is when a parent ignores the responsibilities of discipline. That kind of neglect continues to cost our society in terms of human potential, not to mention the toll it takes on individual lives. It’s important to create boundaries for your children, to celebrate good behavior and punish bad behavior. I learned it at home from my grandmother and  my mother—two women who would not allow me to fail.” (155-156)


Representative Trey Gowdy:
Let me make this personal. If you will seek to establish an unlikely friendship with someone who differs from you, I promise you that one of two things will happen. Either you will see things from a new perspective that you’ve never considered before, and you will be changed; or you will become even more convinced, after careful reflection, that your approach to life is right and proper. Either way, you win.

Even if you decide that your own beliefs are correct, that doesn’t necessarily make the other person wrong. And once you’ve seen life through a different set of lenses, you’ll understand better how a person of good conscience could reach conclusions different from your own. And maybe—just maybe—you’ll find a way to move forward together., building bridges of cooperation and understanding as you pursue mutually beneficial outcomes. (175-176)


Senator Tim Scott:
Perhaps a tougher question to answer is this: What led a young man to believe that starting a race war was possible in 2015, fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act? The quesiton is difficult, not because we don’t know the anser, but because of what the asnwer says about where we stand as a nation.

Dylan Roof saw the cracks in the foundation of our society, where people have begun to retreat into their own echo chambers, removing themselves from the melting pot into individual bowls based on “identity.” Republicans, you wach these channels and read these news outlets over here. Democrats, your channels and news outlets are on the other side of the dial…Research even shows that conservatives are relocating to live where other conservatives live, and liberals are moving to liberal cities. We are decoupling our nation’s amazing diversity.

And yet, through the tragedy at Emanuel, there came a glimpse of the future we must choose. The families of the Emanuel Nine could have shown the world their anger; they could have given Dylan Roof exactly what he wanted. However, their faith and righteousness showed us another path. They called for peace and unity. On national television, they forgave the man who killed their mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. Because of them, Charleston came together in a way not seen before in my lifetime. The eyes of the nation turned to South Carolina, expecting more violence and death, and instead they saw a celebration of life and the power of faith.” (56-57)


Representative Trey Gowdy:

At a recent Pastor/Police Roundtable where we discussed the shooting of Walter Scott, one of the black pastors said that as soon as he heard the racial composition of the jury—eleven white jurors and one black juror—he “knew the verdict would be not guilty.”…

I have spent a lot of time in courtrooms, standing up for victims of color in front of both white and black jurors. I’ve worked with countless women and men of color in uniform who have dedicated their careers to making that kind of conclusion obsolete. What made this pastor an expert on juries?

I didn’t know whether to be angry or shocked, so I made the intentional decision to be neither. Instead, I asked him with genuine interest, “What in your experience led you to that conclusion?” It turned out to be a lot of things. Clearly, it would serve no purpose to question or cross-examine his life experience, which was more immediate and more real to him than any anecdote I might share or any set of statistics  I could locate…

I fundamentally did not agree with the pastor at that Roundtable, because I have witnessed firsthand when mostly or entirely white juries decided in favor of a black victim. I’ve also seen death penalty cases with a disproportionate number of black jurors…sentence defendants to death based in part on law enforcement testimony…

The truth is, that pastor was sharing from his own experience, from what he had witnessed, and it wasn’t my place to disagree with his life experience. In fact, these are precisely the kinds of frank, raw, and candid conversations we need to have with one another. It hurt to hear his candor, but I appreciated it. I’m sure it was painful for the black police officers who were present as well….

Though there is much about this trial that I can’t explain, here’s what I do know for sure: when the mistrial was declared, there were no riots in Charleston. Nobody pillaged the streets or set things on fire. People did not hurt other innocent people because of what they perceived to be an incorrect court verdict. Though many people remain bitterly disappointed, they did not resort to violence to show their displeasure. It was a tremendous testimony to the goodness of the people of Charleston and South Carolina. It was a testimony to how far we’ve come in our desire to live in peace. (121-124)

 

 

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